There is a body of accumulated academic research and current polling making possible a realistic forecast of how America's most populous generation will vote in the future. Not surprisingly, those projections suggest that the Democrats currently have the edge in winning the long term loyalties of Millennials.
"The man who is not a socialist (read 'liberal' in the United States) at 20 has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at 40, he has no brain." That aphorism has been variously attributed to Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, and French World War I-era Prime Minister Aristede Briand. Most recently, the idea that people move from liberal to conservative beliefs and votes as they age was stated by Harvard political scientist, Yascha Mounk. However, as so often happens when conventional wisdom comes up against empirical data, the outcome is quite different.
First, young people are not always liberal (or socialist). Mounk, in fact, provides an example when he writes that "in France...Marine Le Pen's National Front does much better among the young than the old." The same can be said about Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia and, to a lesser extent, Germany.
Closer to home, a longitudinal analysis of survey data by political scientist, Patrick Fisher, indicates that, "In every presidential election from 1960-1976 the 18-34 year old age group was the most Democratic age group, but in the presidential electionsfrom 1980-1992 the 18-34 age group was the most Republican age group. Especially notable is the strong preference of younger voters for Ronald Reagan, which dispels the stereotype that younger voters tend to support relatively younger candidates." It also refutes the canard that younger voters always support liberals and Democrats.
But, could it be that those "younger voters" who start out as liberals or Democrats eventually turn to the right as they age? In most cases, the answer is no. A classic example is the GI or Greatest Generation, those Americans born in the first quarter of the 20th century who lived through and overcame the Great Depression and then won World War II. That generation voted heavily for Democrats starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt, awarding him 85% of their vote in 1932. (Generations, Strauss and Howe, p. 262) As late as 2004, the last measurable segment of GI generation voters gave Democrat John Kerry a majority of their votes.
So, there is no clear tendency for voters to move right or left or toward either party as they age, as Mounk suggested. Instead, as Professor Fisher indicates, due to differing socio-economic conditions experienced during their formative years (generational theorists would add differing parental child rearing practices to the mix), "different generations have distinct political leanings that they will tend to maintain over their lifetime."
In fact, there is data from Pew Research demonstrating that there is a direct relationship between the identity of the president when voters were 18 years old and the partisanship of those voters in the elections that followed. The perceived success or popularity of a president during a voter's formative years influences their vote even decades later. Younger Boomers and older Gen-X'ers who came of age during the term of the popular Ronald Reagan voted disproportionately Republican in elections from 1996 to 2010. On the other hand, Boomers who were 18 during Richard Nixon's tumultuous administration have consistently cast Democratic votes in later years while Boomers and X'ers who came of age during Jimmy Carter's presidency have normally been Republican in their partisanship.
Meanwhile, in Pew's initial survey of the Trump presidency, Millennials disapproved of his performance by greater than a 2:1 (64% to 28%) margin. Even among white 18-29 year olds, 59% disapproved. A just published survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago similarly found that Millennials disapprove of Trump at rates ranging from 55% (whites) to 71% (African Americans). Unlike Mounk's unfounded predictions of the future voting behavior of Millennials, this data point alone suggests that Millennials' Democratic tendencies are likely to be reinforced unless the president's appeal to their generation increases significantly.
While Mounk points out that white Millennials voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a plurality of 47% to 43% in 2016, it should be noted that the Millennial generation is not only America's largest, it is also the nation's most diverse. About 40% of all Millennials and close to half of the generation's youngest cohort are nonwhite. Around one in five have at least one immigrant parent. Latinos 18-29 voted for Clinton by a greater than 2.5:1 margin (68% to 26%). Among African-Americans in that age range the ratio of Clinton to Trump voters was nearly 10:1 (85% to 9%). That overwhelming Democratic vote among nonwhite Millennials meant that Clinton carried the entire generation handily (54% to 37%).
Party identification is an even better indicator of the deeper partisan proclivities of Millennial (and other) voters than their choice in a single election. That is because in each of the five presidential elections of the 21st century, about 90% of those who identify with a party voted for the nominee of that party. And, by 1.6:1 majority (57% to 36%) Millennials identify with or lean toward the Democratic rather than Republican party.
Younger (18-25 years old) and older Millennials (26-35 years old) are equally likely to call themselves Democrats. Two-thirds (66%) of Latino and 84% of African-American Millennials identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party. White Millennials are evenly divided in their party ID (47% for each party). White female Millennials are decisively Democratic (54% to 39%). It is only among white males that the GOP has an edge over the Democrats among Millennials (57% to 40%).
Yascha Mounk may be right in saying that nothing in politics is foreordained. But, in the contest to capture the loyalties of the Millennial generation and control the future of American politics, the Democratic Party continues to hold a clear advantage.
President Biden’s beliefs and behaviors embody many of the traits of the Silent Generation (Americans born between 1925 and 1945) of which he is a member, which is why so many younger Americans are going through a “period of adjustment” as they try to take the measure of the man. As fellow Silents, we find what he does and how he goes about it completely comfortable and appropriate, even as he continues to befuddle and frustrate younger generations—Boomers, X’ers, Millennials and even those Plurals old enough to care about politics.Read more
By 2020, Millennials will comprise more than one of three adult Americans. It is estimated that by 2025 they will make up as much as 75 percent of the workforce. Given their numbers, they will dominate the nation’s workplaces and permeate its corporate culture. Understanding the generation’s values offers a window into the future of the financial industry and much of corporate America.Read more
The ability of Parkland, Florida students to change their state’s gun laws in just three weeks after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas, something no other group had been able to accomplish in the last twenty years, surprised a lot of people. But, for those who have been reading our books about Millennials and how they fit into a larger cycle of generational archetypes, it shouldn’t have.Read more
This month America’s destiny as a pluralistic democracy took a new and unprecedented turn. First, early in May, USA Today asked Americans what name they thought would be appropriate for the country’s newest generation now moving into grade school classrooms with its unique behavior and perspectives. Plurals is the name suggested by communications research and consulting firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, with only the Apple product related notion of an iGeneration getting more votes.
Plurals will be different from Millennials. For one thing they will be the first generation in America that will be majority “minority”, as evidenced by the recent U.S. Census Bureau announcement that more babies born in America in the 12 months between July 2010 and July 2011, were non-white than white. The event occurred about eight years earlier than demographers had predicted it would just a few years ago. The 21st Century pluralistic American society that had often been talked about has arrived. But the question remains whether or not the country’s institutions, and its leadership, will be up to the challenge such a polyglot democracy presents.
The Census Bureau predicts that by 2042 the entire population will be less than 50% Caucasian and America will literally be a pluralistic society.
This prediction is based upon the current trends for births among different minority groups compared to whites. Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 91.75% of the nation’s population growth in this century, with Hispanics comprising a majority of this increase. Rather than immigration flows, which are dropping, this growth will be driven largely by higher rates of fertility among non-whites. Based upon the American Community Survey results in 2010, Hispanics have a fertility rate of 2.4 live births per woman compared to only 1.8 among whites. The only other ethnic group to be having babies at a rate greater than what is needed to replace its current numbers is African-Americans with a 2.1 fertility rate.
This difference is likely to persist and the gap could easily become wider because of the differences in the age of each population. Twenty-five percent of Hispanic women are in the prime child bearing ages of 20-34, compared to only 19% of non-Hispanic whites. (For both African-Americans and Asians, the percentage is twenty-two). The increasing diversity of both of America’s youngest generations is also reflected in the average age of each population. The average age of America’s white population is 42.3, a full five years older than the overall age of the country’s population. The average age of Hispanics is almost fifteen years younger, 27.6, with the other two population groups closer to the average age of the entire population—blacks at 32.9 and Asians at 35.9.
Magid’s research indicated that a majority of Americans were “hopeful and proud” of the country’s increasing diversity, but it was the younger generations, most markedly Plurals, who were more likely to say they were “pleased and energized” by this development. Many older Americans, particularly Baby Boomers and senior citizens, are resisting the changes this dramatic shift is bringing to American society. Already states, such as Arizona, with populations that have the widest disparity between the racial and ethnic makeup of their oldest and youngest generations have experienced bitter political battles over issues such as immigration and education that reflect these divides. The good news is that both Plurals and members of the Millennial generation, born 1982-2003, are positive about this inevitable trend toward a pluralistic society, reflecting their comfort with the diversity in the social circles in which they have grown up.
But that doesn’t mean that Plurals look forward to the nation’s future with equanimity. Most Plurals have been raised by parents from the often cynical and consistently skeptical Generation X. This may explain why Magid found a much greater degree of pessimism about living out the American Dream among them than among their older Millennial Generation siblings, a generation that, despite their current challenges, was brought up in the prosperous Reagan-Clinton era and remains characteristically optimistic. The attitudes of Plurals may also reflect the polarized, bitter politics that have characterized the period of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) that has dominated the news during their young life.
Whatever the reason, the pessimism of the Plurals must be answered by the nation’s leaders in ways which improve prospects for the nation’s future. One way for this to happen quickly would be for those currently holding power to begin to turn the reins of leadership over to those generations more in tune with the nation’s demographic future. If Plurals’ Xer parents and their Millennial siblings are given the opportunity to shape America’s destiny sooner rather than later, the country just might deliver on the promise of the American Dream for its newest generation.
The latest from the men who wrote the book (literally!) on the developing impact of the next generation and the ones to come …
Even though both Generation Xers and Millennials are often portrayed as “digital natives” because of their access to the earliest versions of digital technology when they were growing up, the real digital natives are actually members of America’s youngest generation: PLURALS.
So named by the communications research and consulting firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, because of the great diversity of its racial and ethnic profile, the members of this generation have been immersed in digital technology since they were born. Members of this generation, who today are middle schoolers or younger, are demonstrating a comfort level with conducting their lives online that puts their older siblings (Millennials) and parents (Generation X) to shame.
According to Magid’s research, 59 percent of Plurals are already using Facebook at least weekly. Twenty-eight percent of them tweet just as frequently. Sixteen percent of Plurals also maintain a weekly blog.
Their commitment to social media is evident in their use of check-in sites or location-based apps, such as Foursquare, which are used by 16% of the generation. About a quarter of all Plurals report shopping in a brick-and-mortar store using their cell phone to check product information or compare prices, mostly through the use of QR codes. And about a third of plurals send pictures to their friends from their cell phone of what they are doing while they are shopping.
In comparison to teenage and twenty-something Millennials, Plurals are also much more likely to live all of their virtual lives on mobile devices, with 69 percent of America’s youngest generation reporting that they use a cell phone regularly. Even more (79%) own a personal digital media player, and 60 percent now own or regularly use an mp3 player, higher percentages of usage than are found among Millennials. Forty-one percent of Plurals play games on their mobile phones at least weekly, compared to 39% of adult Millennials. Meanwhile, the percentage of Plurals using a tablet has risen to 43% from 13% in just one year.
Plurals are also likely to accelerate the trend of video content moving to mobile and online platforms. Forty-two percent of them report watching a full length TV show online, and about half that number use their cell phone to watch live TV during a typical week. The percentage of Plurals who watched full-length movies using that device almost doubled in the last year to 40 percent, while about a third of them use their phone to watch other forms of video at least weekly.
Generation X rightfully prides itself on its technological savvy and celebrates its ability to use personal computers and the Net. Millennials are the most facile users of social media. But both of these older generations will have to make way for Plurals and their desire to absorb the most sophisticated forms of content in a mobile environment whenever and wherever they want to.
Entertainment and media firms will have to alter their time-honored business models to accommodate the needs and wants of America’s true digital natives, the Pluralist Generation, when it takes its place in the prime, young adult, target demographic in the next few years.
In the middle of the 1950s, a seemingly spontaneous revolt against the prevailing conformist values of the country erupted among its youngest generation. The actor, James Dean, and his aptly named movie, “Rebel without a Cause,” perfectly captured the nature of this youthful uprising.
His untimely death, in a 1955 high-speed auto accident at the age of 24, made him an everlasting iconic symbol of youthful angst in his own and every other era since.
That same year, the movie “Blackboard Jungle,” about rebellious high school students quaintly called “juvenile delinquents” in the vernacular of the time, featured a song recorded earlier without much success, “Rock Around the Clock,” which brought sudden, and many would say permanent, popularity to a new musical genre, Rock ‘N’ Roll.
One year later, Allan Ginsburg published his revolutionary poem, “Howl,” and one year after that Jack Kerouac’s personal novel, “On the Road,” cemented the Beat Generation’s zeitgeist as the height of hipness in America.
All of the leaders of this cultural revolt were members of the somewhat inappropriately titled, “Silent Generation,” which was mostly known before these events for its willingness to go along to get along.
Within a decade, other members of this generation, most notably the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., completely upset the country’s norms on race relations and ignited the Civil Rights Revolution that ultimately led to the election of the nation’s first African-American president when most Silents had become senior citizens. (Ironically, the Silents were the only generation to cast a majority of its votes against Barack Obama in 2008.)
This repeated historical pattern of early accommodation to prevailing norms followed by significant, if initially unfocused, rejection of key aspects of the nation’s culture has given this type of generation the name “Adaptive.”
Now, evidence of the arrival of America’s newest Adaptive generation has surfaced, which is beginning to define how and why this latest Adaptive generation differs from the older Millennial Generation.
As suggested by the market research firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, this emerging, adaptive generation will be known as the “Pluralist Generation.” Its members, known as “Plurals,” reflect the overwhelmingly distinguishing demographic of America’s newest generation: its ethnic, racial, and religious diversity. (Disclosure: Michael D. Hais worked for Magid for more than 22 years, retiring as its vice president of Entertainment Research in 2007.)
Magid’s research findings, released the first week of May 2012, show the following:
- Plurals are more likely than older generations to have friends and acquaintances from different ethnic groups, races, and religions than their own.
- More importantly, a majority of the members of this generation say they want their social circle to be even more diverse than it is now. Even as this year’s presidential campaign reveals heightened tensions over America’s increasingly diverse demography, this new generation is making clear its preference for even greater diversity.
- At the same time, according to Magid, the fact that the parents of most Plural children are members of Generation X, rather than the Boomers who bore and raised the majority of Millennials, is producing a shift in the focus of Plurals from the group to individual success.
- “Honest, respectful, and trustworthy,” remain traits that all parents hope to see in their children. However, in reflecting their own entrepreneurial values, Gen Xers are more likely than Boomer parents to list individually oriented traits, such as “hard working, confident, and independent,” as ones they would especially like to develop in their children.
- A separate survey by the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts found that the cohort it considers to be the youngest within the Millennial Generation are on the cusp of change to a new generation, which is “less patriotic, and less interested in politics, sustainability, saving, and making mistakes in life.” Click here to read more about that study.
- While generational theorists may disagree on when to mark the end of one generation and the beginning of another, both studies found the same shift toward individual concerns and away from collective action among children of similar ages.
It will take at least another decade, and probably more, before members of the Pluralist Generation are old enough to begin making their own mark on the society that the Millennial Generation is, itself, just beginning to remake.
If the Plurals follow the precedent of their Silent Generation forebears, their childhood and adolescent years will be spent accepting society pretty much as they find it. But, as young adults, they are likely to lead a revolt against too much conformity, first in pop culture, and later in how the country respects the rights of each individual, regardless of their background.
Somewhere, among the nation’s current crop of grade-schoolers, is a charismatic charmer who will become this century’s rebel. It remains to be seen if he or she will enlist fellow Plurals in a cause that will remake the country, or simply signal the beginning of yet another generational shift in the nation’s attitudes and beliefs.
Removing current obstacles to Millennial home ownership would increase the value of the U.S. housing market by at least one trillion dollars over the next five years, representing the sale of around five million homes. America’s housing policies should therefore focus on removing the obstacles to home ownership for this generation in order to bring these “missing Millennials” into the market.
Millennials’ plans for family formation are expected to lead to an increase of 8.3 million homes from now through 2018, worth about $1.6 trillion in home purchases and another $600B in rent. Starting in 2014, there has been a rapid rise in household formations, with Millennials becoming the largest generation among new home purchasers. Half of all home sales activity in the first half of 2015 was first time home buyers and Millennials made up 68% of all such purchases.Read more
As America approaches the 239th celebration of its independence, the events that began with the horrific shooting of innocent churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th and culminated in an eloquent eulogy to their grace, and God’s, ten days later by President Obama, seemed to signal a shift in the nation’s direction to a more tolerant, inclusive and confident nation. Those three traits are themselves a reflection of the attitudes and beliefs of the increasingly omnipresent Millennial generation. They form the basis for a new civic ethos that will come to characterize American government in the rest of this decade during which all 95 million members of the generation will enter adulthood. The cohort’s demographic dominance is an inexorable force increasing the chances that the startling changes the country witnessed in the span of less than two weeks are just a foretaste of what America will be like for decades to come.Read more
It’s time for Millennials (born 1982-2003) to have that tough talk about retirement with members of the Baby Boom generation (born 1946-1964). Unless more Boomers start stepping down soon, the path to promotions and career progress for younger generations will continue to be blocked by people who haven’t shown any inclination to leave, especially after the Great Recession devastated many Boomers’ retirement portfolios. But using logic or inter-generational appeals isn’t likely to be successful and would seem selfish or cold-hearted to most within the remarkably well-mannered Millennial generation. Instead, the talk needs to be couched in the language of Boomers and attuned to that generation’s fundamental values.Read more