Majority of young American adults think they're doing more to change the world than past generations

Seven in 10 young Americans work to create positive change on a daily basis, according to new research.  

A survey of 2,000 Americans (aged 18-38) found that 67 percent believe younger generations are more likely to be outspoken about the issues they support, and half of respondents believe younger generations are actually the ones driving positive change.  

More than that, 57 percent of those surveyed believe their generations - Gen Z and millennials - are doing more than previous generations to support the causes and issues they care about.  

Commissioned by the YMCA and conducted by OnePoll in advance of Giving Tuesday, the survey revealed that the vast majority of young Americans do have causes and issues they care about.  

The causes and issues respondents care the most about are gun control (30 percent), human rights (28 percent) and the environment/sustainability (26 percent). These were followed by homelessness/housing inequality and health care reform (25 percent, each).  

The survey looked not only at the individual causes young Americans are supporting, but the ways in which they're taking action.  

Despite young Americans taking a variety of steps to create positive change, a surprising number had never heard of "Giving Tuesday," a global day of giving held annually the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed had never heard of the holiday - and of those who had, just 16 percent say they participate annually.  

But that's not to say respondents aren't supporting the causes they care about. Young Americans were found most likely to support causes through non-monetary donations - giving clothing, food or other supplies (40 percent).  

That was followed by financial donations (35 percent) - an average of $143 per year - or volunteering (35 percent) - giving more than 42 hours of their time per year.  

Interestingly enough, Gen Z (aged 18-22) were found to be less likely than millennials (aged 23-38) to support a cause by posting on social media - despite being known as the "digital generation."  

Of the two generations, Gen Z was more likely to actively support causes in-person, whether that be through attending marches or protests, fundraising or door-to-door canvassing.  

Older millennials (aged 28-38) were more likely to support causes with their wallets - either through financial donations or by purchasing items whose proceeds support a charity.  

And respondents were found to be optimistic about their actions: Eighty-nine percent believe their support of various causes makes a difference.  

"Now more than ever, we are seeing young people actively leading change on a variety of important social issues," said Kevin Washington, President and CEO, YMCA of the USA. "They are eager to shape the communities we all live in and know they can make a difference with more than financial contributions - from volunteering to signing a petition to organizing a rally and more."   

Respondents do admit feeling a bit discouraged when it comes to certain issues, with 6 in 10 admitting some social issues feel like "lost causes." 

But that fear doesn't prevent younger generations from working on these issues, as 87 percent do believe that even small actions can add up to make a major difference.  

Three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents wish they could do more to help support the causes they care about - so, what's holding them back?  

Respondents say lack of money (54 percent), lack of time (41 percent), as well as lack of access - such as lack of transportation to events (22 percent) - are three key factors holding them back. That's in addition to not knowing how to get started (22 percent) or being unsure of which actions would make a positive difference (20 percent).  

"This holiday season, the Y is encouraging those who are interested in making a difference, but are unsure where to start, to think locally," said Washington. "Visit a YMCA and ask how to get involved. Whether it is a one-time volunteer project or a longer-term commitment such as mentoring a young person, there are ways for people of all ages and backgrounds to make a real difference in their communities."