4 Reasons Millennial Voters are interesting – and matter


By Hannah Troyer

INDIANAPOLIS – Turns out, the 26 percent of 18-29 year olds who plan to vote in next week’s midterms and the presidential election in 2016 do have opinions – contrary to commonly held beliefs.

In fact, their political views are so important, they are considered by the institute’s director, Maggie Williams, to be a “critical swing vote.”

Here’s why:

1. Voting millennials are changing party gears (a little)In the institute’s new poll – released Wednesday – millennials hold different political viewpoints than they did in September 2010, just before the last midterm election.

Just more than half of those who say they will “definitely be voting” prefer a Republican-controlled Congress.

The same poll taken during the 2010 midterm elections showed 55 percent of those voting preferred a Democrat-controlled Congress. That number has decreased to 47 percent.

democratic share of young voters -IOP

2. Conservative millennials are more enthusiastic (well, at least about voting)

About 26 percent of millennials say they will “definitely be voting” – an almost identical number to that of 2010.

But, conservative Republicans are more likely to actually show up to vote. According to the poll, 42 percent of young Republicans are planning to vote compared to 30 percent of young Democrats.

The gap between Republican and Democratic voters has increased significantly since 2010. Four years ago, it was just 5 percentage points. Now it’s 12.

3. Both sides of the party line agree on a few things (take note, Congress)

First, both young Republicans and young Democrats are showing less support of President Barack Obama’s job in office.

His approval rating among 18 to 29 year olds has fallen to 43 percent. That’s down 4 percentage points since April.

Harvard Institute poll - Obama approval rating

Second, both young Republicans and young Democrats see ISIS – an Islamist terrorist group – as a threat and are concerned about an attack.

About 61 percent of millennials say they are “a great deal” or “somewhat” worried about another terrorist attack. Republican millennials – 73 percent – are more worried than Democrats – 62 percent.

Millennials are also essentially even when it comes to supporting Obama’s strategy against ISIS – with 39 percent approving and 38 percent disproving.

Third – and maybe most importantly – neither young Republicans nor young Democrats are pointing fingers at their opposing party when it comes to the gridlock in Congress.

A large majority – 66 percent of all millennials – believe “everyone” is at fault. That means party devotion may not be as concrete as older Americans.

4. Millennials are changing the game (thanks, social media addiction)

Millennials are notorious for how they gather information. Whether it’s breaking news, global news, an ongoing political controversy, or simply what their best friends are doing, young adults find out through social media.

Political candidates have taken note. Campaigns are focusing on their own social media presence – including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

But, social media preferences differ among ethnicities, according to the Harvard institute’s poll.

White millennials are much more likely than African-American millennials to use Facebook and Snapchat, while African-Americans are more likely than whites to prefer Instagram and Twitter.

Politicians may have to work hard and expand their campaigns from the typical TV ad strategy if they wish to reach the “critical” millennial demographic, Harvard officials said.

Williams has some advice for politicians hoping for a victory.

“The IOP’s fall polling shows that young Americans care deeply about their country and are politically up-for-grabs,” said Williams. “Candidates for office: Ignore millennial voters at your peril.”

Hannah Troyer is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.