By Makaila Warga
Move over baby boomers, millennials are on the cusp of becoming the nation’s largest adult generation – and with that comes a significant opportunity to influence the public policy debate.
Based on data recently collected by Pew Research, millennials, already the largest generation in the labor force, will become the largest living generation in the U.S. by next year. Despite all of the media predictions about record millennial turnout in the midterm elections, there was no “youth wave” as some pundits anticipated.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, only 31 percent of youth (ages 18-29) turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms. This is an increase over 2014 but lower than millennial turnout in the 2016 election, when 51 percent of millennial voters went to the polls. That year, Hillary Clinton won 55 percent of the youth vote while only 37 percent of millennial voters supported Donald Trump.
With polls showing strong opposition among millennials to President Trump, many certainly expected that they would become more involved. Democratic candidates were hopeful that the youth vote would support a “blue wave” in the midterms. One possible reason for the unwillingness of youth to exercise their right vote is the perception that their vote does not matter. Many of my friends and colleagues tell me that major candidates often fail to fully represents their ideals.
Too better understand millennials thinking during this year’s midterm election, it’s helpful to look at demographics. As results trickled in, there was a noticeable trend. Gender and race were components that led to the overwhelming result for the democratic parties nationwide. We don’t need statistical information to know that Republicans have a major problem with millennial women. In this year’s election, polls showed that health care and immigration were top issues driving them to the polls.
Interestingly, pre-election data from a GenForward Survey found that a majority of white millennial men planned to vote for a Republican for Congress, compared to a quarter of white millennial women. The survey found that white millennial men were most likely to support a candidate who “shares my values” while millennial minorities and white women wanted a candidate who would “bring about needed change.”
Republicans in California will need to start converting millennials in mass numbers if they want to have a shot at winning competitive elections in the future. Democrats are still waiting to see how many U.S. House seats they flipped earlier this month. The trend is likely to continue – as a recent PPIC poll showed that California millennials are more liberal than older Californians and less likely to be Republican. They also support single-payer state health care and climate change policies.
As Henry Olsen pointed out in a City Journal article, the reason that millennials overwhelmingly support Democrats is because minority voters make up a larger share of voters in that age group than in any other. This is particularly true in California, where the share of Latino likely voters is highest among millennials.
We will probably hear a lot over the next two years about how Republicans can appeal to millennials. A Reuters/Ipsos national opinion poll found that millennials nationally are increasingly supportive of Republicans on economic issues. Focusing on economic issues may be the key to gaining ground with millennials who are turned off by social conservatism. Failing to do this will undoubtedly bolster millennial enthusiasm for Democrats and lead to endless cycles of “blue waves” in California and across the nation.