This upcoming election is in the hands of millennial voters. Millennials are the second largest generation in America. But they have never voted in numbers representative of their population size. If they do vote in numbers, they will swing this election's direction.
So, as much as who will win, the question is: What will it mean for America's future if millennials vote?
What happens when millennials do not vote?
Millennials did not vote in any numbers in the mid-term 2014 elections. Their lack of participation was a major reason why only 33 percent of eligible voters actually voted. The hallmark of the 2014 election was that “none of them”
won the most votes due to voter non-participation.
2014 voters elected Republican Party majorities in both the House and Senate. This Republican majority Congress did not pass any milestone pieces of legislation. It was characterized by these two actions:
- House Speaker John Boehner (R) retired in response to a rebellion among the most conservative House members.
- An unwillingness to vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
The 114th Congress did achieve one historical milestone. Its membership was the most diverse in history. This Congress had 96 racial minority members and 104 women. Fifty-nine percent of House Democrats were women, minorities or LGBT
How millennials may vote on Nov. 8
In terms of this election, these four key attributes distinguish millennial generation voters:
- Diversity. Millennials are the most diverse generation in American history. Comparatively, they embrace diversity throughout their lives, whether in friends or food choices.
- Economics. Millennials are just beginning to form households. Forty-four percent of moms are millennials. This generation is finally overcoming economic ground lost to starting careers during the Great Recession. They also continue to slowly but surely retire their school debt.
- Global warming. Seventy-five percent of millennials believe global warming is happening and human-caused. It is estimated that climate change will cost the millennial generation $8.8 trillion, or approximately $130,000 per millennial. This generation sees solutions like renewable energy, autonomous automobiles and smart tech as keys to slowing or stopping climate change.
- Change. Millennials were born in the Information Age. They were raised to expect their technologies to be continuously improved. This generation embraces social change and individual freedoms. They use social media to determine the authenticity and transparency of products in determining what to buy and who to buy from.
Based on these attributes, millennials are likely to vote for candidates who align with diversity and the economics of being a millennial. They are also likely to seek out candidates who believe in science. Their elected candidates should have higher receptivity to social equity issues, reducing taxes on the lower and middle class, and reducing the burden of college debt. Their elected candidates should be willing to explore climate change solutions like a carbon tax and increased clean tech incentives.
This generation thirsts for political change. They were the generation that fueled Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential primary run. Their Nov. 8 challenge will be to determine if either leading presidential candidate aligns with their quest for change.
Will Nov. 8 launch the millennial age?
The millennial generation is taking over the U.S. economy. They already hold more jobs than any other demographic group. By 2017, they are projected to be the generation with the largest buying power
But this generation still has little political power because they don't vote. If millennials vote in numbers representative of their population size, the Nov. 8 election could very well launch the millennial age in America.
However, if millennials repeat their behavior in 2014 and do not vote, our country will continue to be dominated by the boomer generation’s agenda.
The question that may be more telling than who wins is whether the millennial generation show up in numbers and vote.
Will this be the millennials' first election where they make the hard decision to vote for candidates who do not capture their enthusiasm but still offer more hope for change than the alternative? Or will millennials again choose “none of the above” and default on their future?
Either way, the future course of America, and the millennial generation, hangs in the balance on Nov. 8.
Image credit: Flickr/Theresa Thompson