Author Topic: Do millenials really like astrology?  (Read 503 times)

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Offline JohnM

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Do millenials really like astrology?
« on: December 29, 2018, 06:50:11 PM »

This is one of Steve's favourite hobby horses: that there has been some substantial uptick in millennials flocking to astrology. He even chose it as his biggest pseudoscience article of the year.
It's a shame that there is never links to studies for claims made in the show notes but I guess it would be so much more work.

I am trying to find hard evidence that this phenomenon actually exists.

Many of the pundit articles - and there so, so many - use the evidence that some hipster fashion astrology website has seen their traffic increase by 150%.
https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/mar/11/star-gazing-why-millennials-are-turning-to-astrology
https://thriveglobal.com/stories/astrology-for-millennials/
These articles are then peppered with quotes from millennials...
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/horoscopes-millennials-why-do-so-many-believe-zodiac-star-signs-a7531806.html

So, there must be something more credible?
Well, there is one survey...
https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/chapter-7/c7s2.htm
It seems a good survey with data going back for some time (note it's only America) It's a survey of about 2000 people which is OK but by no way a gold standard in opinion surveys (in the UK gold standard is about 10k might be different in the US with higher population).

The problem is when you start drilling down into specific groups ie millennials that number tends to drop dramatically (I haven't looked at the crosstabs)

Their claim:
Age was also related to perceptions of astrology. Younger respondents, in particular, were the least likely to regard astrology as unscientific, with 42% of the youngest age group (18–24) saying that astrology is “not at all scientific.” The largest change, however, occurred in the 35–44 age group. In 2010, 64% of respondents in this group said that astrology was not scientific, whereas 51% gave this response in 2012, which is a 13% change

So we have a refutation of the 'millennials flock to astrology meme' even here with the 35-44 age group seeing the biggest change! While only 42% of 18-24 is not a great stat it's worth noting that the 25-34 group, who are also millennials, fared better.

Overall they found that: In 2012, (55%) said astrology is “not at all scientific.” vs 2010 where 62% of Americans said that astrology was not scientific. So a drop thereof 7%.

What's good is that we have a new study from this group for 2016 data.
https://nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsb20161/#/report/chapter-7/public-knowledge-about-s-t
Overall they found that: In 2014, two-thirds of Americans (65%) said astrology is “not at all scientific,” with the 18-24 group upto 48% so back to normal then!

And we even have 2018 data now. Which is pretty much in line with 2016.
https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsb20181/report/sections/science-and-technology-public-attitudes-and-understanding/public-knowledge-about-s-t

Oh and guess what I'm pretty sure this data was available when all those pundits were droning on about the millennials flocking to bull shit. Why did they ignore it? Well, it helps fit a narrative - that if you read any of these articles all pretty much come to the same conclusion - that young folk are stressed out and confused about the world because of the politics and social media...

So its my conclusion that there is no phenomenon that millennials are flocking to astrology - at least any more than people did in the past - is nonsense. Yes, there are going to be some popular astrology sites but then in my day astrology was in every newspaper and so many people - including myself here - used to read it on the train just for the japes and laughs with our teammates over how ridiculous it was.

I'm not a millennial myself but I see so much rubbish written about this generation my skeptical hairs tingle whenever I hear claims made about them.

Offline Harry Black

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2018, 07:14:46 PM »
Nice breakdown! I would not have been shocked either way, but it is really interesting how things get lumped on to millenials.
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Online John Albert

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2018, 07:35:38 PM »
In my work I come into contact with quite a lot of Millennials. I've noticed what seems like a disproportionate interest in not only astrology, but also tarot, witchcraft, ghosts, etc. And even besides the superstitious stuff, I've also noticed a pronounced interest in certain pseudosciences like superfoods, gluten sensitivity, Myers-Briggs, and conspiracism.

But those polls would seem to contradict the impression that Millennials really are more superstitious, at least with regard to astrology. Maybe the ones who are into it are just more outspoken, and the disbelievers are less likely to speak up and contradict them.

Then again, who's to say what is "disproportionate" for a given age group? When I was in my 20s and 30s, it seemed that fewer people my own age were into the classic superstitions, and that culture was dominated by the ex-hippie Boomers. But then again, more of my peers just followed the regular mainstream religions...
« Last Edit: December 29, 2018, 07:40:46 PM by John Albert »

Offline JohnM

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2018, 08:37:29 AM »
Thanks Harry

John - I teach 16-18 year olds and some of the crazy stuff they come out with! I had a 10-minute conversation with one lad trying to convince him Osama wasn't Obama's brother... another was a self-confessed devil worshiper... But yes I agree with you that ones with these strong beliefs tend to be a bit more vocal about it.

After some sleep, I thought I'd go back to the original episode to check what Steve based the argument on as I have so much respect for him I gathered there must be something I'm missing.
Podcast #676
https://www.theskepticsguide.org/podcast/sgu/676
In the notes, there is a link to this article written by Steve:
https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/new-york-times-and-the-return-of-astrology/

Steve's strongest claim is the evidence from the article from independent I've already linked to which itself looks at the 2014 data on scientific knowledge.
Another claim is from an opinion piece which to me is not evidence of anything other than one person's opinion.

There is another quote from a 'researcher' but there does not appear to be a link to the research. HIs name is Nicholas Campion who has some amazing stats on beliefs in astrology in 18-21 year olds. ie '51% values advice from their horoscope'
Oh and guess what Nicholas is himself a full-on paid-up astrologer!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Campion
I tried to find the data for these stats but googling just bought up a lot of claims without any evidence. Sure, being an astrologer (with books to sell) doesn't make his claims bad but as we all know it does mean we should apply extra scrutiny to these claims.

I had a glance at some of the 200 comments below the article to see if anyone had dissected the claims but there wasn't much. Mainly it was arguments over identity politics...

Another thing. Looking at this so many other people had written up the same claim based on Steve's article (it's not a surprise given how much of an authority he is on this stuff) I wonder how long the meme will take to debunk?
« Last Edit: December 30, 2018, 08:40:37 AM by JohnM »

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2018, 09:51:27 AM »
Didn’t someone on the show speculate that young people might just be switching from belief in religion to belief in other forms of woo? If so, the total amount of irrationality might not really be changing. A person switching from one flavor of woo to another should not disturb us as much as an overall I crease in belief in woo. But since religion gets a free pass, it does not show up in surveys of the total amount of belief in nonsense. Religion is complete crapola and is more harmful than some other forms of woo.

Note that there are varying degrees of “belief” in astrology. On the one extreme are people who will pay a mountebank to tell them how to live their life, who to marry, what job to take, etc.; and at the other extreme are people who think that the position of the sun in the zodiac at the time of your birth exerts some small influence over your character.
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Offline superdave

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2019, 10:59:42 AM »
Anecdotal here but I work in an urban highschool and there is very strong belief in astrology among our students.
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Offline random poet

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2019, 11:55:00 AM »
I am in the "millenial" age group, and so are my friends and acquaintances. Let's say that the sample size is about 100. 1% believe or care about astrology, 99% do not. Of my older relatives, about 75% believe in astrology.

Old people believe a lot more than our generation.
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Offline Harry Black

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2019, 01:49:41 PM »
Millenials make more noise than other generations because we have access to, interest in and fluency with the most effective means of making noise available at the moment. I think that can cause people to get the impression we are the only people who care about certain issues.

Offline Sawyer

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2019, 06:21:36 PM »
Anecdotal here but I work in an urban highschool and there is very strong belief in astrology among our students.

Using my super official guidebook of arbitrary generation assignment, aren't high-schoolers in gen-z at this point?

Offline JohnM

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2019, 06:04:10 AM »
Anecdotal here but I work in an urban highschool and there is very strong belief in astrology among our students.

Using my super official guidebook of arbitrary generation assignment, aren't high-schoolers in gen-z at this point?

That's my intuition as well. Anyone born >31/12/1999 is the generation following millennials.

Does anyone think I should write into the show to dispute the claim or would it be a waste of time? I assume they get so much it would never get read.

Offline Harry Black

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Re: Do millenials really like astrology?
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2019, 08:32:44 AM »
Anecdotal here but I work in an urban highschool and there is very strong belief in astrology among our students.

Using my super official guidebook of arbitrary generation assignment, aren't high-schoolers in gen-z at this point?

That's my intuition as well. Anyone born >31/12/1999 is the generation following millennials.

Does anyone think I should write into the show to dispute the claim or would it be a waste of time? I assume they get so much it would never get read.
I think its well worth your time. In fairness to Steve he does usually seem keen to take or address feedback.

 

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