Millennial Voters Refuse To Be Left Out of this Election
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The Millennial generation is the largest, most diverse, and most progressive in American history. In 2008, this generation of played a key role in deciding who would be the next president through support at the polls and mobilizing other voters to build support. This year, at 46 million strong, not only are Millennials now a full quarter of the voting-age American public, but they also surpass the 39-million-strong bloc of voters older than age 65.
While the Millennials may have gotten older over the past four years, they haven’t lost their passion for all the issues that brought them to the polls in 2008—and could again play a significant role this November.
As this generation continues to play a larger role in determining who is elected to lead our country and the issues on which our leaders focus, journalists and pundits are dedicating more column inches and air time to this group of Americans—but who they are and what motivates them can get lost in the noise.
For all the effort by the media to paint this generation with a single—and often unflattering—brush, one of the features that defines it more than anything else is how incredibly diverse it is—and how that informs so many of the decisions it makes and the issues it fights for. 2020 will be the first presidential election in which all Millennials will be of voting age. They will total about 90 million eligible voters, will comprise nearly 40 percent of the electorate, and nearly half ( 44 percent) will be people of color.
This paper will discuss the makeup of the Millennial generation, the issues it cares about, the challenges it faces, and the role it will play in leading the country in the decades ahead.
In addition to being the largest generation in American history, the Millennial generation is also the most racially and ethnically diverse. As more minorities enter the electorate, policymakers will be challenged to deliver progressive and inclusive policies to satisfy the needs of all their constituents—some of whom have felt the brunt of marginalization in the past.
In terms of race and ethnicity, the share of Millennials who are people of color is greater than any previous generation. The 2010 Census found that minorities made up 40 percent of Millennials, compared to only 20 percent of Baby Boomers, Silents, and the Great Generation combined. In 2012, 43 percent of the voting-age Millennials (ages 18 to 29) are people of color (19 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black, and 5 percent Asian), while 60 percent are white. Further, by 2020—the first presidential election where all Millennials will have reached voting age—44 percent of Millennials will be people of color.
Perhaps one of the most significant projections about the demographics of the electorate, the Millennial generation, and the direction of our country in the decades ahead is that by 2050, those ages 65 and older are expected to have just reached the 40 percent minority-threshold that Millennials have already reached. Seniors have historically had higher voter turnout rates than any other age group and accordingly have consistently been a group of voters that candidates prioritize engaging (as can be seen by the time spent on Medicare), but with Millennials now outnumbering them, this generation now has the potential to play a larger role at the polls.
According to research from the Center for Information and Research On Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, Millennial voters are diverse in many more ways than race—a growing number of young people of color are identifying as gay and transgender and the majority support expanding rights and equality for this community. And though more Millennials are unaffiliated with a religious tradition compared to previous generations most still consider themselves religious and are finding new ways to define what that means for them as they embrace more progressive positions than previous generations.