They're called "anglers," but not because they're into rods and reels and rubber worms and mountain streams.
Their moniker connotes something very different, actually--fast-paced, goal-oriented, competitive. They're angling to achieve. They play all sides. And they're about to usurp the ubiquitous baby boomers as the molders of American culture.
Some of them technically fall into the boomer category, though they're on the younger slope of that demographic peak. And many of them hail from a post-boomer culture. The Reagan Generation, some call them; the children of the '80s.
"These may not be the people in power today, but we think they're the trend-setters of tomorrow. They're the ones who'll determine how the '90s evolve," says Peter Stisser, vice president of Yankelovich Clancy Shulman, the Westport, Conn.-based market research firm that annually analyzes the subtler shifts in the country's social plates.
Contrary to the common notion that the flower children of the '60s are now poised to take the helm, Stisser says that set is past its prime and now very much detached, even isolated.
In fact, a new Yankelovich study suggests that, while the boomers continue to see themselves as the prime cultural gurus, nobody else sees them that way.
"The older baby boomers are more established, more inclined to protect the status quo. They're very self-content," Stisser says. "It's this younger group that has the energy, the motivation, to make things happen. They're the ones who're most worried about the world not coming together in an acceptable form."
The 1989 Yankelovich report, based on two-hour personal interviews with 2,500 consumers, says that the anglers' potential influence far exceeds their numbers. The boomers have managed to dominate through the sheer weight of their ample populace. The anglers' strength seems to lie in their outlook, their force of will.
A core group of them--what the Yankelovich folks call the "entrepreneurs"--are especially potent agents for change.
Like the boomers, they're highly educated and professional. But they're independent, tending to own their own businesses rather than work in corporations. They're unfettered by any particular ideology. They're supremely pragmatic. They want results, and they're perfectly willing to employ new and non-traditional means to get them.
So, just what will these anglers bring us in the next decade?
Well, the burgeoning concern with environmental issues is largely at their bidding. Unlike their immediate demographic predecessors, however, they're not anti-technology and they've no intention of moving to the hinterlands and getting down with nature.
Plastic is not a dirty word to them, nor does the word "biodegradable" hold any great charm. They're perfectly content with artificial as long as it's recyclable.
They also seem to be behind a growing public distrust of big business. They're concerned about ethics. If, for instance, a business is seen as having caused an environmental catastrophe and then balked at the cleanup, the anglers will hold a grudge.
But they don't view business as their adversary. Unlike their '60s forebears, they're not hostile, just skeptical.
And, in perhaps the best example of their newly balanced approach to the world, the anglers are the ones who are responsible for all that used exercise equipment we're seeing at our neighborhood tag sales.
While the boomers continue to sweat it out on their Nautilus machines, the anglers are auctioning theirs off. They want to maintain a generally healthy life style, but they've forsaken the fitness fanaticism of their elders. They don't work out; they take walks. They haven't sworn off cholesterol; they eat eggs, occasionally.
They believe in self-indulgence, but within certain limits. They're not into extremes. They accept compromise.
With the anglers in charge, the future might best be summed up by the words "frozen yogurt."