Shortly after the first Baby Boomers entered their teen years in the early- to mid-1960s, a new class of Americans began to form and ascend. This group is noteworthy for having participated in — or having been influenced by — one or more of the social and consciousness movements, beginning with civil rights activism in the early sixties.
They invested their thoughts, passions and priorities into environmental movements, social justice movements, and/or organic food and alternative healthcare movements. Many became connected to the peace movement during the Vietnam War era. And today these people populate the self-development and spirituality movements. Most noteworthy has been their significant strides in gender equality as part of the women’s movement.
Although fostered by the Silent Generation and Boomers as they came of age, this class now crosscuts all age and economic groups. They are holistic thinkers and technologically adept. They are deeply committed to preserving and protecting the environment for future generations. They value personal growth, creativity, entrepreneurial pursuits and community connections.
Called Cultural Creatives by their discoverer, Dr. Paul Ray, they tend to be inner-directed, thoughtful, and impassioned; they are also socially concerned and donate time and resources to socially responsible businesses.
Leading-Edge Boomers are at the leading-edge of this momentous societal shift. But, as I’ve noted elsewhere, Boomers’ children, the Millennials, also identify with the Cultural Creatives mindset.
Representing over 50 million Americans, two-thirds of which are women, Cultural Creatives are introducing deep-seated and fundamental changes to our national value system, and their collective influence has extraordinary implications for the forthcoming presidential contest between John McCain and Barack Obama.
I had an opportunity to listen to Dr. Ray, founder of Integral Partnerships, LLC, at the Big Tent in lower downtown Denver for an event sponsored by the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado during the Democratic National Convention.
Dr. Ray showcased his most recent research insights concerning the impact of Cultural Creatives (and those they influence through thought leadership) on the forthcoming political contest for U.S. President. In his address entitled “The New Political Compass,” he observed that “a significant majority of Americans now express progressive values (53%).”
These values reflect priorities in life, what the nation should become, and what citizens need from the political process. Political values are the best predictors of what people will do behaviorally and thus have huge implications for politicians and marketers.
There has been a tidal wave of change in attitudes on global warming in just the last two years, with 70% to 80% of Americans supporting strong action to intervene in the environmental crisis. The global climate issue ranks higher in importance to Cultural Creatives than does a struggling economy.
Members of this segment want to leave a sustainable legacy for future generations, reflecting a maturation of the nation's collective psychology as has been noted by other observers, including author David Wolfe in his influential book Firms of Endearment.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Ray’s research reveals that the economy is the second issue of greatest concern. Only about the top 10% of the population are feeling economically secure while 45% are stressed financially.
These titanic forces are leading to a synthesis of perceptions: a majority feeling pressure from a full-blown planetary emergency and simultaneously experiencing economic pain.
American businesses have a substantial opportunity “to advance the ecological sustainability agenda in the form of a clean-green economic transformation. It not only responds to the recession; it makes the US economy more competitive and saves the planet from climate crisis.”
Over lunch, Dr. Ray shared some additional data with me. On his “Political Values Map,” where 53% of likely voters share progressive (blue) and environmental (green) values, this blue-green synthesis is statistically consistent across all generations.
A longstanding metaphor for the American Experience has been the image of a melting pot, and although as a nation we’re more culturally and ethnically diverse than ever, it seems that across generational and socioeconomic divides we are becoming more homogeneous with respect to core political values.
According to Dr. Ray’s rigorous research and analysis, the White House and the next wave of successful businesses belong to those who can construct an alliance between progressive and green values.