Horowitz: Millennials are Now Nation’s Largest Generation

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

 

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At more than 75 million strong, the Millennial generation—people between the ages of 18 and 34-- recently moved ahead of Baby Boomers to become our nation’s largest generation. This trend will only accelerate, according to the Pew Research Project, as young people continue to represent the lion’s share of new immigrants and mortality takes its inevitable toll on the Boomers.

As the expert apostles and chroniclers of the Millennial generation, Morley Winograd and Michael Hais note, its shear numbers will enable it to have a growing and out-sized impact on American life and politics. The past two Presidential elections serve as a preview of coming attractions. With the full size of the generation not yet reflected in the electorate, for the first time in memory more  people between the ages of 18 and 30 cast votes in those elections than people 65 and over.  And the roughly 2-to-1 margin for President Obama  over his Republican opponents, Romney and McCain, was the winning difference.

A recent poll of 18-29 year olds conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics shows this trend of millennials voting overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate for President is likely to continue post-Obama. The poll puts Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump, 61%  to 25% among likely younger voters.  Echoing Winograd and Hass, Harvard Institute of Politics Director Maggie Williams asserts that the findings in the survey reflect ‘a ‘growing awareness that their(millennials) voices have power.”

The Millennial generation is not only our largest generation; it is by far the most diverse.  About 40% of millennials are Latino, African American, Asian or of mixed background.  This is one of the major factors in its more liberal and Democratic political orientation. But even white millennials, who did  give Romney a narrow majority over Obama,. as a whole are more liberal than older white voters.

This rising generation is drawn to issues of ‘community, politics and deeds,’ while Boomers are focused on “self, culture and morals,” argue Winograd and Hais.  Socially networked and respectful of peer opinion they are attracted to the “Wisdom of Crowds” and skeptical of a “God-like figure from above to tell them what’s important.”  Despite their more liberal outlook, they are not necessarily supporters of  New Deal type big government programs, preferring a more bottom-up approach where citizens can use data and technology to steer and influence government.

While political attitudes for some people change dramatically over their life-time, for most of us, the ones we hold in early adulthood stay relatively constant.  The community-mindedness of the millennials as evidenced in public opinion research and in widespread volunteering bodes well and is likely to stand the test of time.

Defining generations, especially large ones, is a tricky business. In a group of 75 million plus, the full range of political views and human behavior for good or ill is certainly present. All-in-all, however, I believe as millennials exercise more influence and take on society’s leadership roles, our future will be in good hands.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island

 
 

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