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How Millennials Are Reshaping Elections

Bo Johnson, Contributing Writer

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Millennials have been brought up frequently during this election. According to Pew Research, Millennials and Generation Xers now make up 44% of the electorate,
a record and growing share. Millennials drew headlines for their overwhelming support for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. In important states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, more than 80% of voters below the age of 30 voted for Sanders over Clinton. Yet questions still remain about the impact of young voters and what role they play in our elections.
As stated, above, Millennials and Generation X, our two youngest voting generations, now make up nearly half the electorate. This should be good news for Democratic candidates. Millennials overwhelmingly back Clinton over Trump (44% to 23% according to a NextGen survey), and backed Obama four years ago by a 23-point margin. On top of that, 43% of Millennials are non-white, and half of all babies are now minorities, and minorities tend to lean Democratic in elections.
However, it is a little early to say Democrats have a lock on the future. For all their numbers, Millennials punch far below their weight in elections. According to Pew Research, 69% of Baby Boomers voted in 2012, but the Millennial turnout rate was a dismal 46%. This gap in voter turnout causes potentially decisive Democratic victories to become far closer. This turnout gap affects elections around the world. While 73% of 18-24-year-old British voters voted against the Brexit, 60% of those 65+ voted for the Brexit. 55-year old+ British voters had a 29-point advantage in turnout over those 18-34, so the referendum was skewed in the older generation’s favor. Another reason Democrats need to be cautious is Millennials are less loyal to their political parties. That 80% who voted for Sanders voted against the candidate the Democratic leadership inarguably preferred.
While it may not have been a conscious vote against the leadership’s choice, it did show that Millennials as a whole are more likely to vote for their favorite rather than the likely winner.
So how will young voters impact this election? It’s hard to say. While most do not like Trump, young Democratic voters generally did not get their preferred candidate, leading to an enthusiasm gap that could keep them away from the polls. However, in fast-growing states like Virginia and Colorado, their votes could be decisive as both are considered swing states. It’ll all come down to who shows up on November 8.

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How Millennials Are Reshaping Elections