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Rob Horowitz: Millennials Coming of Age

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Rob Horowitz is hopeful that Millennials' contributions to renewing the American Dream will be consequential and overwhelmingly positive.

If you want to know where our politics and culture are heading the most important group to look at are young adults—the people that will do the most to shape our future as they come of age. This is especially the case if there are a lot of them as evidenced by the large imprint of the post-World War II Baby Boom generation, still having an outsized impact as the oldest of them move into retirement (All you need to know is the Rolling Stones remain at the top of the list of largest earning touring bands in the world).

The same is nearly certain to be the case for today’s young adults, members of the 77 million strong Millennial generation—a generational cohort of Baby Boomer proportions. The impact of this generation has already been felt in the last two Presidential elections as young people voted in much larger numbers total than previous generations and in much higher percentages for the Democratic candidate, serving as a big slice of the winning difference for Barack Obama. Now, that the oldest members of this generation are in their early 30’s and the overwhelming majority of Millennials are at least of voting age, their influence is only going to increase. An in-depth report on Millennials as compared to other generations—released by the Pew Research Center and based on recent polling—provides at least some directional guidance for how this growing influence may play out.

Millennials by the numbers

This poll confirms that despite the tough economic hardships many Millennials have experienced due to entering the workforce during the Great Recession, they remain strongly Democratic in voting preference and more liberal than previous generations. As the Pew report states, “Over the past 10 years Millennials have remained the most liberal and least conservative of the four generations, and the only generation in which liberals are not significantly outnumbered by conservatives.” Further, more than half of Millenials support a bigger government providing more services, while less than 4-in-10 favor a smaller government providing fewer services. They are the only generation which gives a bigger government majority support.

These findings—consistent over time—bode well for Democrats. Still, there is room for Republicans to make inroads as half of Millennials identify as independents and only 31% say there is a great deal of difference between the political parties. This is a much lower percentage seeing big differences between the parties than members of Gen X, Boomers or the Silent generation. Of course, it is possible that Millennials’ political views will shift over time: although if past history is a guide, while there are certainly many cases of opinions changing on specific issues, for most people their over-all political outlook remains relatively fixed.

More broadly, Millennials are in the words of the Pew Report “detached from institutions” –or at least more detached than previous generations. For example, nearly 3-in-10 indicate, “they are not affiliated with any religion, a much higher percentage than previous generations. And only 26% of adult Millennials are married—a much lower percentage than previous generations at similar points in the lifecycle.

The first generation to grow up with the new online technology, Millennials are the most socially networked, with more than 8-in-10 on Facebook and a median friend count of 250, according to Pew. They are the driving force behind the growing importance of social media in election and issue campaigns. Generally speaking, Millennials are distrustful of big institutions and skeptical of charismatic leaders, preferring the ‘wisdom of crowds.’

Optimistic about the future

Still, Millennials remain optimistic about our nation’s future and their personal economic futures—more optimistic than the older generations. As Millennials age, form more lasting attachments and breathe new life into old institutions, shaping them to be more in line with their values and communications style as well as inventing institutions of their own, their full impact will be felt. Once more members of this most educated, most diverse, outsized and truly community-minded generation find their footing, I am convinced that their contributions to renewing the American Dream and tackling the big challenges ahead will be consequential and overwhelmingly positive. Or at least I sure hope so—our future depends on it.


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.


Related Slideshow: RI Candidates with the Most Social Media Reach

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10. Lorne Adrain

Candidate for Mayor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 439
Campaign Twitter Followers: 208

Total: 647

How Social is the Adrain Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 78
Campaign Tweets: 26

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9. Jorge Elorza

Candidate for Mayor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 1,287
Campaign Twitter Followers: 573

Total: 1,860

How Social is the Elorza Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 74
Campaign Tweets: 180

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8. Brett Smiley

Candidate for Mayor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 1,461
Campaign Twitter Followers: 704

Total: 2,165

How Social is the Smiley Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 27
Campaign Tweets: 289

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7. Michael Solomon

Candidate for Mayor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 1,341
Campaign Twitter Followers: 987

Total: 2,328

How Social is the Solomon Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 643
Campaign Tweets: 1,086

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6. Daniel Harrop

Candidate for Mayor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 1,460
Campaign Twitter Followers: 1,100

Total: 2,560

How Social is the Harrop Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 34
Campaign Tweets: 862

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5. Clay Pell

Candidate for Governor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 1,672
Campaign Twitter Followers: 1,077

Total: 2,749

How Social is the Pell Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 1,738
Campaign Tweets: 31

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4. Allan Fung

Candidate for Governor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 2,176
Campaign Twitter Followers: 2,810

Total: 4,986

How Social is the Fung Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 146
Campaign Tweets: 1,154

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3. Ken Block

Candidate for Governor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 4,516
Campaign Twitter Followers: 884

Total: 5,400

How Social is the Block Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 1,328
Campaign Tweets: 1,665

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2. Angel Taveras

Candidate for Governor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 3,544
Campaign Twitter Followers: 3,209

Total: 6,753

How Social is the Taveras Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 51
Campaign Tweets: 325

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1. Gina Raimondo

Candidate for Governor

Campaign Facebook Likes: 3,870
Campaign Twitter Followers: 3,965

Total: 7,835

How Social is the Raimondo Campaign?

Talking about on Facebook: 547
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Progressive Public Education seems to be working. Millennials don't understand what the Government was set up for, or where it derives it's power. Ask students what kind of Government is the United States, most will dutifully answer, "a Democracy". That of course is wrong, this is a Republic. The Republic that is supposed to protect individual citizen's rights and freedoms.
"The best Government is that which governs least."

Definition of Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. Which would be mob mentality, which fits in well with the "wisdom of crowds".

Comment #1 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 03 18

While I'm in the Boomer group, I've have noticed that many of the Millennials are independent with many being libertarians (of those that have any political consciousness at all.)

The fact that younger people are blowing off the unnecessary and expensive cost of Obamacare tells me that progressive leanings fall away when progressive policies intrude personally on their lives.

Comment #2 by Art West on 2014 03 19

Horowitz is spin whiz lefty hack. Milennials will wise up.

Comment #3 by joe pregiato on 2014 03 19

I think this is silly left-right labeling. As a college teacher (now retired) I found this generation decidely mixed. As the stereotypes goes, I suspect this generation is less religious, more open to diverse relgious and ethnic contacts, more tolerant of gays, more open to urban living than some earlier experiences. That might favor Democrats, but I would add that I believe they are more distrustful of government and government programd, more hostile to unions than I thought previous generations were, more open to entrepreneurship. That would tend to favor Republicans. No way to project anything with any confidence.

As for health insurance, if that generation thinks they don't need to sign up now in part to proetect themsleves in event of sudden need, in part to help the older folks who need more care, how do they think they will get medical care if they have an accisent now or when they get old and need more care?

Comment #4 by barry schiller on 2014 03 20


To answer your second paragraph: It's easy to beat Obamacare. Because a person can't be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition, you simply don't buy until you have a condition, THEN you sign up for insurance. Until then, you just pay the penalty. Simple.

This is part of the reason why Obamacare will prove unsustainable. Millenials won't be scammed; they'll scam this beast with one hand tied behind their backs -- while texting.

Comment #5 by Art West on 2014 03 20

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