WASHINGTON: In a break from most surveys into the habits of US millennials, a new study from the Pew Research Center has concentrated on their societal and political views and it has become clear they differ in many respects from older generations.

It found that half of young adult Americans, defined as those aged 18 to 33, describe themselves as political independents and they are the only generation more likely to identify as liberal rather than conservative.

A full 31% identify as liberal compared with 24% of those from Generation X (people born 1965-80) and 21% of Boomers (those born 1948-64), and of those millennials who do support a political party, they lean heavily towards the Democrats.

The racial make-up of America's young adults is one of the key factors in explaining their political liberalism, Pew concluded, describing the US millennial generation as the most racially diverse in American history.

After questioning 1,821 adults across all US states in mid-February, Pew also unearthed distinct attitudes towards religion, marriage and social issues among millennials.

Just 26% of this generation is married compared with 48% of Boomers (when they were the same age) and while 69% of unmarried millennials say they would like to marry, many consider they don't have the financial foundation to do so.

Furthermore, almost a third (29%) said they are not affiliated with any religion compared to 16% of Boomers and 9% of Silents (people born 1928-45).

Indeed, only 36% of millennials said the phrase "a religious person" describes them very well, compared with 52% of Generation X, 55% of Boomers and 61% of the Silent generation.

In perhaps a surprising finding, the report also found that only 19% of millennials believe that people can be trusted compared to 40% of Boomers.

Yet a series of other consumer surveys have suggested millennials appear to be more willing to share their personal information and, in addition, the Pew study found a full 55% have posted a "selfie" photo on a social media site while 81% use Facebook.

Despite this generation's distrust and detachment from traditional opinions, Pew nonetheless found millennials to be generally optimistic about the future of the US.

Almost half (49%) said the country's best years are ahead of it, compared with 42% of Generation X, 44% of Boomers and 39% of Silents.

Data sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff