Millennial Voters Refuse To Be Left Out of this Election
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Even during midterm election season, when expectations are lowest for overall turnout, the trend for youth voter turnout actually remained relatively stable in the past three cycles, according to data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement:
- 22 percent of young people turned out in 2002.
- 25 percent of young people voted 2006.
- 24 percent of Millennials (ages 18 to 29) turned out in 2010.
One interesting figure that highlights the diversity of Millennials—specifically in the context of political participation—is that in 2010, as in 2008, young African Americans led the way in youth voter turnout. Young African Americans voted at a rate of 27.5 percent, compared to 24.9 percent of young whites. Approximately 17 percent of young voters were Latinos, and 17.7 percent were Asian Americans. Turnout among white youth actually declined more than that of any other race or ethnicity between 2006 and 2010.
For all the pundits who would write off this generation and the role it will play in elections and the political process, Millennials are engaged in varied and sometime nontraditional ways. In fact, as many as three-quarters of young people cling on to various rungs of political engagement:
- 21 percent of young people voted and were broadly engaged in the political process.
- 18 percent focused narrowly on political activism and voting.
- 14 percent registered to vote in 2010 but weren’t mobilized to hit the polls and led to other ladders of engagement.
- 13 percent intensely followed and commented on politics online but missed opportunities to vote or take direct action.
The CIRCLE study found, however, that the remaining 23 percent of Millennials were not engaged at all, which presents a clear example of untapped potential for elected officials. This diversified approach to civic action demonstrates that young people are engaged but are in many ways undermobilized and just starting to appreciate their influence in political participation; many have simply been politically marginalized due to lack of education or privilege. The majority of young people who were alienated from politics only held a high school diploma, and notable majorities were people of color.
Diversity, consistent turnout, and growing voter-eligibility mean Millennials are the best chance to make progress on the issues that will keep our country moving forward. But an investment in mobilizing the potential of this powerful voting bloc is key. The Millennial generation can be a powerful contender for the electorate if politicians seize opportunities to reaffirm young people’s belief in bigger and better government; work to close gaps in income, racial, and education disparities; and consistently engage in mobilizing around issues that matter most to young people. But politicians won’t succeed at driving young people to the polls if they fail to recognize one crucial element when it comes to civic engagement: Millennials do things differently.
For all the pessimistic predictions and dismissing of Millennials’ impact in this election, nearly 70 percent say it is extremely or very likely they will personally vote—up from about 60 percent in July. What’s more, 72.6 percent of young people believe they have the power to change things in this country. There should be no mistake: Millennials will play a critical role in deciding the outcome on November 6.
Plenty has been said and written in the weeks leading up to the election about whether Millennials will turn out to vote and which candidate they’ll be supporting. But little of that coverage takes a deeper look at what is motivating this generation and the many ways beyond voting that it is making a difference in its communities. Millennials face real challenges and understand that the future is uncertain, but as the most diverse and best-educated generation the country has ever seen, they are driven, confident, and ready to work for better policies and a more progressive society.