August 21 2012
The Millennials: Open to persuasion this fall
Loyalty isn't the value that comes to mind when you think of the Millennial generation. Too many of us spend too many of our days jumping around from one shiny distraction to whichever one captures our imagination at the moment — text messages, Facebook and Twitter, among others. For Millennials, conventional wisdom would say that if there isn't instant gratification involved, we are not interested.
Yet when it comes to presidential politics, Millennials appear to be demonstrating blind loyalty — sticking with the president even when his policies seem to be against their own economic self-interest.
A recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll showed that young adults under 30 back President Barack Obama 2-1. This is a sharp contrast with other generations, such as those 65 and older, who support Mitt Romney.
In fact, there is an 18-percentage-point difference between Millennials and seniors on favored candidates, which is one of the biggest demographic divides in this election.
The top-ranked issue for 18- to 29-year-olds is creating good jobs. It is No. 6 for adults 65 and older.
I can see why job creation is the No. 1 issue for Millennials — more and more studies show that young adults are suffering in this economy. Government data last year found 53.6 percent of people younger than age 25 with a bachelor's degree — about 1.5 million people — were unemployed or underemployed, which is the highest percentage in more than a decade. The latest jobs numbers suggest that about one in eight Americans ages 18 to 29 is unemployed. And many young adults are moving back home or finding it difficult to leave home because of the economy.
Millennials want something done about the economy, and many still believe that government should be doing more to influence job creation. In fact, Millennials are more likely than other groups, such as seniors, to see the government as the solution, rather than the problem. USA TODAY/Gallup reports:
Two-thirds of seniors say the government is trying to do too much that would be better left to businesses and individuals; about one in four say the government is doing too little to solve the country's problems. Among those younger than 30, the divide is much closer, 52 percent to 47 percent, between those who say the government is doing too much or too little.
Even if Milliennials haven't learned, like their elders have, to be skeptical of government's ability to solve problems, one would presume that they would at least recognize that the government policies advanced by Obama haven't been helping and may be contributing to their economic troubles. Yet their support for Obama hasn't changed from 2008, when he won the youth vote by a 2-to-1 margin.
How much more time will they give Obama? Another four years?
Candidate Romney should take note: Millennials are open to persuasion. They need to be reminded that this president and his policies have had a chance, and it hasn't turned out well. It's time to move on to something new.
A similar message resonated in the 2008 election and seems in line with the way Millennials react to new choices. With Millennial voters, it is only a matter of time before they become tired of what they have and start looking for the next big thing.
Greater liberty, less regulation and a growing economy — and the candidate who champions those ideals — may have the chance to be the next trend to take hold.