Millennial Voters Refuse To Be Left Out of this Election
Continued from previous page
These numbers reaffirm the widely held belief that young people are more progressive than older generations, especially when compared to the larger population. How much impact this has on public policy and the future of the country depends entirely upon how politically active and engaged Millennials are and how much political candidates and elected leaders engage with and respond to Millennials.
The core values shared by Millennials undoubtedly impacts the way they view government, particularly on issues such as abortion, contraceptives, same-sex marriage, and immigration—often considered wedge or “hot” button issues. But these progressive values don’t mean a strict allegiance to one party. Though Millennials have more confidence in the government’s ability to solve both social and economic issues, it also wants to see a more efficient and effective government that helps bring the solutions our country needs.
Attitudes and Values: Economy and Support for Government
When compared to older generations, Millennials place more faith in the government to deal with the issues it cares about most, including the economy, higher-education reform, and income inequality. Research by the Center for American Progress, in a report titled “ The Generation Gap on Government,” shows that Millennials are the generation most likely to reverse the trend of distrust in government—they actually want a strong government to handle the economy. More than 60 percent of Millennials, compared to just 46 percent of older voters, believe that “We need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems.” Fifty percent of Millennials say government should do more to solve problems, while only a third of non-Millennials share that view. And 44 percent of Millennials voice confidence in the federal government’s ability to solve problems—14 percent more than do older generations.
While it’s true that government can’t solve every problem, Millennials believe the government would be most effective at intervening in economic issues such as closing the wealth gap, bolstering the workforce, investing in education, and addressing soaring college costs:
- 80 percent agree that “Government investments in education, infrastructure, and science are necessary to ensure America’s long-term economic growth,” compared to 6 percent who disagree.
- 73 percent of college-age Millennials ages 18 to 24 agree that, “The economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy.”
- 72 percent favor “increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million a year.”
- 69 percent agree that, “The government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor.”
- 75 percent of Millennials are more likely to call for increased government involvement in improving public schools, compared to 54 percent on non-Millennials.
- 73 percent of Millennials are more supportive of governmental involvement in making college more affordable, in contrast to 56 percent of other segments of the population.
A major part of why Millennials are more progovernment than their older counterparts can be attributed to the shift in demographics—particularly a jump in young Hispanics, who typically favor government intervention. Since President Barack Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which will defer the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible youth and permit them to work legally in the United States,—many mixed-status families have first-hand experience with the positive impact the government can have on a community. Elected officials, however, shouldn’t take Millennials’ progovernment stance for granted. Instead they should see Millennials’ view of government—as having a place in broadening people’s access to opportunity—as a chance to not only engage and mobilize but also to demonstrate that when young people make an investment in democracy, they get returns.
Engagement and Activism
The ability of a generation to change the country and the policies it enacts is rooted in its political engagement and activism. As previously noted, one of the defining characteristics of Millennials is their diversity, with nearly one in four being people of color. It is because of this diversity that this generation will likely be the one to take up the torch of fighting for greater equality—for themselves and for other communities that have been historically marginalized and unable to pursue the opportunities that make the American Dream possible. Millennials will take up these fights using new forms of activism and organizing tools as more and more of everyday life moves online.