Millennials Weigh In

Posted On September 27, 2012

The political potential of Millennials has begun to be realized across the globe in the last few years, as they reach adulthood and voting age. In the Middle East, younger generations are seen as largely responsible for the social-media fueled Arab Spring and Green Revolution. In Europe, Millennials affected by the economic crisis have taken to the streets in protest. And in the United States, Millennial voting patterns are seen as responsible, in part, for the outcome of the 2008 election.

The shape and degree of their influence going forward has come into sharp focus as the 2012 election nears. According to the Pew Research Center, there has been a change Millennials’ enthusiasm for voting since 2008, but not much of a change in their voting preference. Pew’s latest survey shows Millennial support for Democratic ticket off just a few percentage points from the 2-to-1 margin of 2008. On the other hand, their influence could be diminished by their lack of engagement in the upcoming election, down from 65% in 2008 to 48% in the upcoming election.

Because Millennials have suffered economically since 2008 (they have the highest unemployment of any generation), many expected their votes to be influenced against the incumbents by their economic circumstances, as is typical of most voters. Indeed, their votes have been targeted with economic appeals in campaigns like Generation Opportunity and Crossroads Generation. While their preference hasn’t shifted, Millennial economic woes may explain the downshift in enthusiasm.

Separate surveys reveal other factors shaping Millennials’ opinions. Despite their economic troubles, they remain optimistic about their futures, they are not as discouraged as some might expect about still living with their parents, and they are equally focused on environmental and social issues where their preferences align with the incumbent by a large margin over the challenger.

Millennials’ impact on the 2012 election remains to be seen but, as millions more of them become voters over the next decade, analysis of their impact will continue to be a major political story.

Categories: Voting Behavior