We constantly hear how Millennials are doing things differently and the political arena is no exception to that rule.
When it comes to a big political race we hear about the Latino vote, the women’s vote, the black vote and now the latest group to join the list of demographic votes are the Millennials.
There are certain things that Millennials have in common with other generations – mainly the discontent with established government and “politics as usual.” In a recent study, politically-engaged Millennials find themselves dissatisfied with government and echo other generations in favoring candidates who have distanced themselves from government or are separated altogether. But Millennials have faced a more depressing timeline that has hardened them toward politics. This makes the lure of a candidate who hasn’t been poisoned by the system very appealing to Millennials.
While there are similarities between different generations, Millennials, themselves, are the most diverse generation in America. With that diversity comes a sense of tolerance and understanding. They have a different take on hot-button issues because they have lived in a different time than past generations. They are entrenched in the gay rights movement and see the work to be done for gender and racial equality. This tends to be a general rule of thumb that younger people tend to be more liberal and progressive and it continues to be true for Millennials on a general platform.
Young adult political engagement reached its pique in 2008 when Barack Obama won his first term as President, but since then has been lackluster. Some experts believe with the wide variety of Presidential nominees that Millennial engagement will be at an all-time high. But it can’t be certain as young people’s political engagement, generally, has been in a slump, seeing at the decrease in engagement in the 2012 election.
A lot of dissatisfaction came as a result of the Great Recession of 2008 when high hopes were dashed, financial concerns took over and many were unhappy with the government’s response. Threats of government shutdowns and extreme partisan politics have also topped the list of reasons younger people distrust current government leaders. Not to mention neither party quite speaking to the Millennial spirit.
Whether they are engaged or not, Millennials have a strong say about certain political issues. Generally speaking, Millennials have strong support for same-sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana, climate change, and ecological policy and economic stability. They are concerned with equality given the rise of gay rights activism as well as the rise of Black Lives Matter and women’s equality.
So what will be the issues that guide Millennial voters? Who are the candidates that are speaking directly to Millennials? Will Millennials bring change in the 2016 presidential election? Let’s find out.
What are the issues that Millennials are most concerned with?
1.) Economic Stability – It’s a broad issue that ranges from job security to minimizing interest on student loans. Many saw their parents lose their jobs and retirement in the Recession, so now Millennials main concern is the economic stability that will keep them secure now and in the long-term.
2.) Race Relations – It boils down to immigration reform and racial equality. Millennials understand the humanity that lies in the immigration debate. Most do not agree that all illegal immigrants need to be deported, but rather a pathway for legal immigration should be created. Millennials also agree there needs to be better equality paved in the arena of race relations with movements like Black Lives Matter that have risen in protest of inhumane treatment of minorities.
3.) Solutions to Climate Change – Perhaps the reason climate change is an issue Millennials are concerned with is because it has been off the radar of previous generations. But Millennials, generally, believe climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed. They have faith in science and look for someone who is willing to find solutions and not push the issue on the backburner as has been done all too much in the past.
4.) Peace before War – Millennials grew up with the Iraq War that they agree should never have happened, but last far longer than it should have. So now when issues of national security and foreign stability arise, Millennials favor diplomacy within reason. As issues with ISIS grow, Millennials hope that an avenue to avoid war can be tangible.
Who in the political arena is resonating with Millennials?
Democrats tend to be favorites of the Millennial mindset. Bernie Sanders has a platform that tends to line most with Millennial mindsets. He has gained popularity through a more grassroots campaign that has been independent of Super PACs. His stances on equality and fairness have resonated with Millennials and while idealistic seem plausible and different from the rhetoric of the past.
Hillary Clinton is viewed favorably by Millennials, although she can lose traction simply because her conversations with Millennials don’t translate smoothly. Not to mention she is affiliated with big money backers that give Millennials a bad taste in their mouth.
When it comes to Republicans, Millennials favor front-runner Ben Carson, followed by Rand Paul. Carson, a famous and talented neurosurgeon has soared as of late to the top of the GOP pack, while Paul has teetered on the verge of falling off the radar. Carson’s politically separation has been appealing to Millennials who find him more trustworthy and tolerant than Donald Trump. Rand Paul’s attraction comes in that his Libertarianism is different from the typical Republican/Democrat debate.
While another debate is at our doorstep, Millennials need to be even more attentive in seeing where candidates continue to share policy and ideas. Especially in paying attention to candidates that may not be immediate appealing.
Aside from Presidential hopefuls, Millennials, themselves, are making a splash in the political arena. When John Boehner resigned as Speaker of the House, many had thrown support behind a Millennial Republican Congressman, Justin Amash. Many of Amash’s supporters believe his stance on being researched on legislation issues, transparency with constituents and his contrast to former Speaker Boehner would’ve made him an excellent candidate. Amash just might be a pioneer for Millennials to become more politically engaged.
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*Graphs taken from Center for American Progress