Although King’s dream of a future where children in America would be ”judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” is not yet here, the nation’s youngest generations, particularly Millennials (born 1982-2003), are hastening the day when his dream will come true. Most of the ninety-five million Millennials are united in their belief that everyone should be included in the group and they have the numbers to make that desire come true.
But they won’t go about it with the kind of confrontational approach that Boomers in the 1960’s used to change the course of the country. Millennials believe in collaboration and the importance of finding win-win solutions to any problem. Their radically different strategy for creating societal change from the bottom up will mean that Dr. King’s dream is more likely to be realized quietly, in one community, school, and workplace at a time, than through mass protests and demonstrations that are an echo of America’s past.
Millennials Will Create a More Inclusive and Tolerant America
Video from Mike & Morley
Besides his history-making embrace of full equality for gays and lesbians, the most surprising part of President Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Address may have been the emphasis placed on dealing with the challenge of climate change. The president devoted almost three whole paragraphs, more than for any other single issue, to the topic. His remarks suggested that America’s economic future depended on the country leading the transition to sustainable energy sources and that “the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
Different generations reacted differently to the speech. The President’s rhetoric seemed like standard liberal fare to many Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965), who either vehemently agreed or disagreed with what Obama had to say depending on their political ideology. But members of the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003) were in almost unanimous agreement with the way the President defined the context of this challenge. It was as if he was channeling the thinking of Millennials such as David Weinberger at the Roosevelt Institute’s Campus Network (RICN) who wrote, almost a year ago, “Millennials view environmental protection more as a value to be incorporated into all policymaking than as its own, isolated discipline. We are concerned with economic growth, job creation, enhancing public health, bolstering educational achievement, and national security and diplomacy. Young people recognize that each of these concerns is inextricably tied to the environment.”
President Obama was also right, from a Millennials’ perspective, to emphasize the need for America to become a leader in sustainable energy technologies. Seventy-one percent of Millennials believe America’s energy policy should focus on developing “alternative sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydrogen technology; only a quarter believes that it should focus on “expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas.” Similarly, the RICN’s “Blueprint for a Millennial America,” a report prepared by thousands of Millennials who participated in their “Think 2040” project, placed the development and usage of renewable sources of energy at the top of all other environmental initiatives.
The participants’ proposed solutions to the challenge, however, were not focused on the kind of top-down change so common to Boomers. .Instead the proposals emphasized taking action at the community level. No one, the RICN blueprint said , should be asked to “make sacrifices without fully considering the cost to communities” whose “texture” is most likely to be impacted dealing with the challenge.
Many politicians fail to notice this unique Millennial perspective. Members of the generation disagree sharply with their elders on the best way to address environmental challenges, preferring to tackle them through individual initiative and grassroots action rather than a heavy-handed top down bureaucratic approach.
Of course, Millennials are the most environmentally conscious generation in the nation’s history. Almost two-thirds of Millennials believe global warming is real and 43% of them think that it is caused by human activity, levels much higher than among all other generations. But, as Weinberger also wrote, “While environmentalists of years past were primarily aiming to bring clean air and clean water concerns into the national policymaking calculus, environmentalists today are far more worried about solving global problems like climate change by using local environmental solutions.”
Adapting a Millennial approach to dealing with global warming would mark a major change for the Administration. All four of Obama’s first term environmental policy heavyweights were Boomers, whose preference for top down dictates was evident in almost every decision they made. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar established new controls on off shore oil drilling that satisfied neither side. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu tried to jump start the development of renewable energy technologies in the United States by funding startups with dubious chances of marketplace success. And most conspicuously EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s plans for regulating smog were rejected by the President. Fortunately , all of them have announced plans to leave their posts. They will follow in the footsteps of environmental czar, Carol Browner, who left two years ago after a less than stellar performance during the Horizon Deepwater drilling disaster.
There is talk within the administration of subtle changes in policy. The departure of this quartet of ideologically-driven Boomers gives the President an excellent opportunity to appoint a new team to execute his vision for meeting the environmental challenges of our time.
President Obama’s new team will have to continue to link the need to develop U.S. energy production to both environmental concerns and economic development. It will need to couch the call for progress on reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the context of strengthening, not weakening, local communities and preserving the nation’s natural resources. Just who the president finds to take on this politically nuanced task will say a great deal about his sensitivity to his Millennial Generation supporters’ attitudes and beliefs. It will also foretell a great deal about how successful he will be in matching the lofty rhetoric of his Second Inaugural Address with today’s political realities during his final term in office.
As demonstrated in the presidential exit polls and rehashed in countless articles and blogs since the election, Barack Obama’s decisive reelection victory over Mitt Romney was a triumph for a still-emerging, majority Democratic Obama coalition, which we said in a pair of preelection Next America articles would define a new civic ethos, or consensus on the role of government, for the nation.
The president even more forcefully reiterated his civic ethos vision–that America and its individual citizens advance only when “We, the People” work “together”–in his Inaugural Address. Now, a recent Pew Research survey indicates that in doing so the president is speaking clearly to the policy preferences of his side of America’s two new 21st-century political party coalitions.
The Democratic coalition is centered on the millennial generation (young voters 18 to 30), women (especially single women), minorities, and the highly educated, and is geographically focused in the Northeast and West.
All of these groups gave at least 55 percent of their 2012 presidential votes to the president. In fact, without the support of 60 percent of millennials, Obama would have lost the election. For some parts of the coalition, support for the president’s reelection verged on unanimity.
More than nine in 10 African-Americans voted for him, as did about seven in 10 Asians, Hispanics, Jews, and single women.
On the other side, the groups in the Republican coalition were equally loyal to Mitt Romney. Solid majorities of men, whites, seniors–especially those living in the South and Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states–voted for the GOP candidate.
But the first policy area–gun control–on which these coalitions have clearly reemerged to reshape the political landscape, is one that wasn’t even discussed during the campaign. Social Security and Medicare have long been considered “third rail” issues in U.S. politics–matters so contentious and controversial as to be untouchable by any rational officeholder or candidate.
Over the past two decades, gun control has been such an issue for Democrats. Obama studiously avoided the topic during his first term. In 1994, Bill Clinton saw his party lose control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40 years after passing a ban on assault weapons. He recently warned his fellow Democrats to be very careful in their approach to this subject.
But the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., made it impossible for the president to ignore the issue, even if he was so inclined, and earlier this year Obama proposed several congressional actions, including expanded background checks for arms purchasers, a resumption of the federal assault-weapons ban, and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines, as well as 23 executive orders to deal with firearm usage.
The president enters the fray this time with the full support of his coalition on this issue and, as suggested by his Inaugural Address’s reference to the safety of our children, is willing to mobilize and use that coalition on behalf of his proposals.
Pew’s basic gun-control question asks respondents if it’s more important “to protect the right of Americans to own guns or to control gun ownership.” In a mid-January 2013 survey—fielded a month after the Newtown shootings—a 51 percent to 45 percent majority favored emphasizing control on gun ownership rather than protecting the right to own guns.
Two years earlier, a 49 percent to 46 percent plurality took exactly the opposite positions. It is the rise of the Obama Democratic coalition that underpins this new majority support for gun control.
The majority of women, millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics, and college graduates, as well as those who lived in urban and suburban areas and those in the Northeast and West, all support controlling gun ownership over protecting gun owners’ rights.
As in the 2012 election, the Obama coalition is opposed by a coalition of males, whites, those with incomplete college education, and rural residents, the majorities of whom prefer to protect gun owners’ rights.
It is uncertain how many of Obama’s proposed gun-control measures will ultimately be enacted by Congress and what form they will take in the legislative process.
The Pew survey indicates that gun-ownership-rights supporters are more politically active; 42 percent of them, as compared with 25 percent of gun-control advocates, have contributed money to an organization, contacted a public official, expressed an opinion on a social network, and/or signed a petition about gun policy.
However, one of the most often repeated, but inaccurate, memes of the 2012 campaign was that Obama’s reelection chances suffered from an “enthusiasm gap” that would retard participation by the president’s supporters. By Election Day that gap had fully closed.
Gun control is only one of the legislative initiatives promised by Obama for his second term. In his Inaugural Address, he briefly referred to immigration reform, climate change, protecting the middle class in entitlement adjustments, infrastructure development, education, and revamping both voting processes and the federal tax code.
The president seems intent on mobilizing his coalition to enact his policy agenda. If he is successful, the nation will see the enactment of an array of domestic policies as sweeping in its scope as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, but aligned this time with the ideas and beliefs of another president and his winning 21st-century coalition.
In an effort to help the Republican ticket cut into President Obama’s massive advantage with millennial-generation voters, Paul Ryan delivered what may have been his best line of the 2012 campaign in his speech accepting the GOP vice presidential nomination: “College grads shouldn’t have to live out their 20s in childhood bedrooms staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
One reason why Ryan’s appeal to millennials ultimately failed to have as much impact with them as he anticipated is that it painted an increasingly out-of-date and inaccurate picture of the current status of many millennials who, in growing numbers, are finding work and leaving their parental homes. This may be the first sign that a generation described or even accused of “failing to launch” is now on its way to shaping its own distinctive destiny and that of America in areas such as marriage, family formation, and child-rearing.
On Election Day, millennials—those born between 1982 and 2003—comprised a greater proportion of the electorate than they did in the Obama-mania election of 2008. Those members of the generation old enough to vote gave Obama a 60 percent to 37 percent margin over Mitt Romney, and allowed the president to capture the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and thereby win reelection.
Still, there is a reason Paul Ryan’s comment may have struck home to at least some who listened to his speech. Millennials, to date, have been less likely to strike out on their own than the generations that immediately preceded them. A December 2011 Pew survey showed that, partially prompted by the impact of the Great Recession, nearly one in three young adults 25-34 still lived with their parents, three times the percentage of those that age who did so in 1980.
For a generation with close and mutually supportive relationships with its parents that millennials enjoy, this arrangement was not quite the disaster that pundits and politicians said it was and it now seems to be coming to an end.
This year, the jobless rate of those between 25 and 34 has dropped a little more sharply than it has for the overall population. It fell to 7.9 percent in November from 9 percent in January, compared with a decline to 7.7 percent from 8.3 percent for all workers. As a result of the improved employment picture and continued low home-mortgage rates, twentysomethings and those in their early 30s are moving into their own apartments and buying homes in increasingly greater numbers.
Interstate migration of young people is occurring at the highest rate in more than a decade as well. According to the Census Bureau, the nation has added more than 2 million households in the past year, many of them comprised of young adults. This was triple the annual average for the previous four years.
Now that more millennials are leaving their parents’ home and establishing their own households, one might anticipate that more of them will marry. So far, however, this hasn’t happened. If anything, American marriage rates are continuing to decline. According to a Pew analysis of census data, in 2010 barely half—51 percent—of Americans 18 and older were married in comparison with 72 percent in 1960. Over the same span, the median age for a first marriage had risen from 22.8 to 28.7 for men and from 20.3 to 26.5 for women. As a result, the share of 18- to 24-year-olds currently married dropped from 45 percent in 1960 to only 9 percent 50 years later. Among 25- to 34-year-olds the corresponding decline was from 82 percent to 44 percent. Perhaps most disconcerting, 39 percent of all American adults and 44 percent of millennials agree that “marriage is becoming obsolete.”
Not surprisingly, given the decline in marriage rates, birth rates have also declined and the average age of first-time parents has risen during the past several decades. From a peak of about 4.3 million before the Great Recession, annual births fell to 3.9 million in 2011. Between 1970 and 2010, the average age of first-time mothers rose by nearly four years (from 21.5 to 25.4). The average is closer to 30 on both coasts and among college graduates.
Still, these initial trends may not end up being the final words on the subject. Generational theorists indicate that the millennial generation is a “civic” generation. The last previous American civic generation was the G.I. or 'greatest generation." Like today’s millennials, that generation was forced by events—the Great Depression and World War II—to live with their parents and postpone marriage and family formation for a decade or more before eventually marrying in large numbers and parenting the baby boom generation, the largest cohort prior to the millennials. Nowhere were the hopes of this generation better stated than in the words of a demobilized G.I. in the 1947 Academy Award-winning film, The Best Years of Our Lives: “a good job, a mild future, and a little house big enough for me and my wife.”
In this, as in other aspects of life, millennials may turn out to be a lot like their G.I. generation great-grandparents. The Pew survey indicating that many millennials perceived marriage to be an institution of the past also found that 61 percent of all unmarried adults and nearly half of those believing marriage to be obsolete said they would like to wed.
Another Pew survey found that the three most important life priorities for millennials were being a good parent (52 percent), owing their own home (30 percent), and having a successful marriage (20 percent)—numbers almost identical to those of older generations.
This is not to say that, once they are formed, millennial families will be exactly like those of earlier generations. Millennials have the most gender-neutral attitudes of any generation. They are, perhaps, even the first female-driven cohort in U.S. history. Within millennial households, sex roles, financial contributions, and responsibility for household chores are likely to be more blurred than ever before.
But, as Paul Ryan should have learned, it is far too early to give up on the millennial generation and its chances of living the American Dream. History and the optimistic beliefs of millennials themselves tell a different story.
While it is still fashionable for politicians in both China and the United States to prove their domestic leadership credentials by taking tough stances against their nation’s chief economic rival, the results of recent Pew surveys conducted in the two countries suggest that this type of rhetoric is a holdover from an earlier era. An examination of the beliefs among the youngest generational cohorts in each country shows a distinct lack of the ideological vitriol so common in the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, we might see a far more congenial relationship between the world’s two great powers --- at least once the older generations fade away.
Let’s hope so, because older generations sometimes seem more committed to discord than accord. During the 2012 US presidential campaign both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney took full advantage of opportunities to criticize their opponent for the softness of his approach to China. Xi Jinping, who was named the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party about a week after Obama was reelected and will become China’s Premier early next year, has been no less willing to rhetorically censure the United States.
Yet the Pew research indicates that the youngest generational cohort in both the US and China holds positive attitudes toward and favors contact with the other country. In the United States that youthful cohort is the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003), America’s largest and most ethnically diverse and tolerant generation to date. Of the 95 million US Millennials, about four in ten are nonwhite and one in twenty is of Asian descent, with Chinese-Americans comprising the largest portion of that segment. By contrast, among U.S. seniors and Boomers, only about one in five is nonwhite and about two-percent of Asian heritage.
Generational theorists have not definitively named the Millennials’ Chinese counterparts. Some observers, however, have called at least their urban segment “Little Emperors.” Similar to American Millennials, this generation was often reared by their own hovering “helicopter parents” in a highly protected, hyper-attentive manner that reflected the importance of these special children—the product of China’s “one child” policy—and the great expectations their parents had and continue to have for their offspring. The result of this upbringing are cohorts of civic-minded, pressured, conventional, patriotic American and Chinese young people who revere their parents, are optimistic about their nation’s future, and open to the world.
In China, the Pew research, conducted in March and April, 2012, contained a battery of questions probing attitudes toward the United States, its interactions with China, and its influence on Chinese society. Across all of these questions, the youngest cohort (18-29 year olds) held significantly more favorable opinions about America than older Chinese. Given that Chinese who are 50 or older include generations that established the Communist regime in 1949, fought American troops in Korea, and were part of the ideological Red Guards of the 1960s, this is not altogether surprising.
Overall, a majority (51%) of China’s youthful cohort held a positive view of the U.S. as compared with only 38% of older Chinese. More specifically, majorities of 18-29 year olds said they admired American technological and scientific advances (77%), American ideas about democracy (59%), U.S. music, movies, and television (56%), and agree that it is good that American ideas and customs are spreading to China (50%). Across all of these dimensions favorable attitudes toward the United States and its influence were at least 15 percentage points higher among the youngest Chinese cohort than the oldest. In only one area, the American way of doing business, did less than a majority of 18-29 year old Chinese (48%) indicate admiration of the United States; even on this dimension there was a 12-point gap between the positive opinions of younger and older Chinese respondents.
Pew did not ask the same questions in its American surveys that it did in the Chinese study. However, it did examine many of the same dimensions permitting valid comparison of survey results in the two countries. In a November 2011 survey examining the large generation gap in U.S. politics Pew asked if it was better for the United States to build a stronger economic relationship with China or to get tough with China on economic issues. American Millennials, a generation corresponding to Chinese 18-29 year olds, overwhelmingly favored a policy focusing on building stronger trade relations with China rather than one based on toughness (69% to 24%). By contrast, a plurality of the two oldest American generations—Boomers and seniors—believed that a tougher approach instead of closer economic ties with China was best (48% to 45%). These results reflect the far greater support of Millennials than older generations for free trade agreements overall (63% to 42%).
In its April 2012 Values survey, Pew examined the openness of Americans to “foreign,” if not specifically Chinese, influences. In one question, respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement: “It bothers me when I come in contact with immigrants who speak little or no English.” Only 32% of American Millennials compared to 44% of all older generations agreed. In another item Pew asked for agreement or disagreement with this statement: “the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values.” Only four in ten Millennials (41%) as compared with a majority (53%) of Boomers and seniors agreed.
American Millennials are a generation that seeks to resolve disputes and conflicts by searching for win-win solutions rather than absolute victories over their opponents. Recent research suggests that their Chinese counterparts share many of the same attitudes. This bodes well for relations between their two countries in coming decades. The big question for the more immediate future is whether older generations in America and China will be able and willing to set aside the attitudes based on the ideologies and policies of the past long enough for Millennials on both sides of the Pacific to forge a new, less contentious relationship.
at Huffington Post
In an election as close as this year's presidential contest, any group can make a credible claim for having made the critical difference in the outcome. But there is certainly no denying the impact the Millennial Generation (young voters 18-30 years old) had on the outcome of the 2012 election. Because it was so surprising to so many (but not us) there was as much commentary among the chattering classes on the day after the election about the impact on American politics of the Millennial Generation as the more conventional conversation about the continuing rise in the influence of Hispanic-Americans. It is possible that this sudden discovery of the power of the Millennial Generation will last beyond this week's instant analysis but whether it does or not, the size and unity of belief of the Millennial Generation will continue to be felt for the rest of this decade and well beyond.
Millennials made up 19 percent of the electorate in 2012, a point or two more than their share of the 2008 electorate. Unlike four years ago when the Millennials' share was equivalent to that of senior citizens, this time they outpaced the senior share, which fell to only 16 percent of the electorate. Although final turnout numbers are difficult to calculate until all the votes are counted, CIRCLE research data suggests that the Millennial turnout rate approached the celebrated performance of their generation in 2008. In both years , the number was about 50 percent of those eligible, with much higher rates of turnout in the critical battleground states.
For that reason, Millennial organizations can stake a legitimate claim to having made the difference for President Obama in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Virginia. Even as Hispanic voters reached an historically high level of participation, Millennials, about a quarter of whom are Hispanic, became a powerful 23 million strong segment of the electorate, a number that will only grow larger over the rest of this decade.
So far, just about 60 percent of Millennials have turned eighteen. Over the next eight years, all Millennials will become eligible to vote, representing a 95 million voter opportunity for whichever party is willing and able to successfully recruit them. If Millennials continue to participate at around the 50 percent mark that they have in the past two presidential elections, they will eventually represent about a 47 million member constituency, twice the numbers that they were in 2012.
But it's not just the size of the generation that makes Millennials such a powerful political force. The previously largest American generation, Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) have been hopelessly split in their political opinions and preferences ever since they ignited the cultural wars of the 1960s. This makes Boomers less of a political opportunity as an entire cohort and of more interest to politicians when they are segmented along other lines, such as the infamous and well-known gender gap that they created starting in the 1980s.
Millennials, by contrast, have consistently voted in a highly unified manner. Two-thirds of them voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 60 percent of them voted for his reelection this year. Even though there are significant ethnic differences within a generation that is 40 percent non-white, Millennial voting behavior continues to show the powerful pull of their generation's consensus-oriented approach to decision-making.
Millennials are now a key part of a 21st century Democratic coalition that includes minorities and women, especially college-educated and single women of all ethnicities, which together now represents a majority of American voters. As the number of Millennial voters continues to grow throughout this decade and the generation preserves its unity of belief, something which political science research suggests will happen, Millennials will have the pleasure of experiencing many more electoral triumphs in the years ahead.
at Huffington Post
Every 80 years, the Supreme Court has decisively entered a sharply divided political process to provide its own answer to the fundamental question of American politics: what is the scope and purpose of government? Each time, it has attempted to reinforce the generational and party alignments of a previous era in the face of challenges from the beliefs and partisan preferences of an emerging civic-oriented generation like today's Millennials (born 1982-2003). But this time, as the 80 year cycle came full circle, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the individual mandate in the 2010 Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") under the taxation powers of the Congress surprised everyone.
As in the past, the generational and partisan composition of this Supreme Court reflects an earlier era. Five of the justices, including a majority of its conservative bloc (Roberts, Thomas, and Alioto) are Boomers (born 1946-1964). The rest are members of the even older Silent Generation (born 1925-1945). A majority are Republicans. Yet in this case, Chief Justice Roberts bucked history and his generation's preference for ideological confrontation in order to preserve the institutional reputation of the Supreme Court.
Perhaps the Court understood the historical and generational trends any ruling to overturn the Affordable Care Act would have had to fight against. Two-thirds of Millennials wanted the Affordable Care Act either to be expanded (44 percent) or left as is (23 percent). By contrast, clear pluralities of Boomers (44 percent) and Silents (46 percent) wanted it repealed. Millennials, however, represent the wave of the future. They now comprise one-fourth of all eligible voters; by 2020 more than one out of three adult Americans will be Millennials. And that Millennial-dominated future is now likely to arrive much sooner as a result of the court's decision.
Because this large cohort is bringing a new "civic ethos" to American democracy, the Court's decision is likely to have far-reaching effects on the future relationship between government and its citizens. Millennials believe that social rules are important but that everyone should have the freedom to choose how to abide by them. They see government as a parent, setting the boundaries of behavior but not dictating it. Two key elements of the Court's decision today reinforce this approach. One upholds the right of the federal government to tax behavior of which it does not approve (in this instance, not buying health insurance). The second denies Congress the right to dictate to the states what they must do with regard to Medicaid. The Millennial civic ethos will use democratic processes to determine national priorities and rules for permissible behavior by both individuals and states, even as it provides incentives for greater individual and local initiative.
With the Court's affirmation of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the country is likely to see this framework used to resolve many of the other policy challenges the country faces. June 28, 2012, will be remembered as the day the Millennial Era arrived in the nation's legal principles as it did in its electoral politics four years ago.
First, Cook shows his readers the target card by correctly pointing out how important the Millennial Generation’s vote will be to President Barack Obama this year. In November 2008, voters between the ages of 18 and 26 comprised about 17% of the electorate and voted by a greater than a 2:1 margin for Barack Obama (66% for Obama and 32% for John McCain). With older generations dividing their votes almost evenly between the two candidates, Millennials accounted for about 80% of Obama’s national popular vote margin over McCain, turning what would have been a narrow win into a decisive seven-point victory.
This year, members of the Millennial Generation, representing all voters 30 and under, will make up an even larger share of the eligible voter population, about 24%. But, Cook says, as he moves the cards around on the table, they aren’t likely to vote for Obama by the same margin. He bases this prediction on the conventional wisdom, that “When an incumbent is running, the election is usually a referendum on that person rather than a choice between two people.” He hopes you won’t pay attention to the word “usually” in that sentence, However, as we point out in our book, Millennial Momentum, 2012 is more likely to be one in which the country makes a choice between two radically different visions of its future that will be offered by the two candidates. In decisive elections of this type, which occur about every eighty years, the normal “rules” are not likely to apply.
Having enticed his readers into thinking about the 2012 election as a referendum on the president, Cook conveniently cites approval ratings for Obama among Millennials that are months out of date. The March 18, 2012 survey from Gallup, the firm Cook usually relies upon, showed that 55 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds approved of Obama’s performance as president, up from 44 percent in early December. While not a 2:1 margin, these numbers are hardly a signal of a close election among Millennial voters.
Cook also fails to mention another set of data that shows Obama beating all of his potential GOP rivals by the same 2:1 margin that Millennials gave him in 2008. In a November, 2011 Pew survey, for example, voters under thirty preferred Obama over Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, by a 61% to 37% margin. Given that there will be 16 million more Millennials eligible to vote in 2012 compared to 2008, and Millennials’ continued partisan unity, America’s largest generation could give Obama an even larger number of votes over his rival in this year’s election, even if the president’s margin of victory among these voters is slightly less than it was in 2008.
But Cook wants those looking at his constantly shifting cards to focus on a completely different, much less representative piece of prognostication. He cites the outcome of two focus groups in Ohio and North Carolina conducted by Resurgent Republic, a polling firm “headed by veteran Republican strategist Ed Gillespie and longtime pollster Whit Ayres.” Resurgent Republic talked to a group of Millennial voters in each of those two states whose independent status was determined by each participant being “undecided on the generic presidential ballot test.”
Continuing his efforts at political sleight of hand, Cook conveniently fails to mention that such voters are least likely to vote or to be aware of current political candidates and issues. Instead, he tries to entice his readers to lose track of the target card (usually the Queen of Hearts), by suggesting they pay attention to this quote from Gillespie, “If these groups are representative of this demographic at large, it will be a tall task to counter their disillusionment.” The word “if” is Cook’s final attempt at misleading his mark. The participants in the focus groups were deliberately selected on a characteristic that makes them very unrepresentative of Millennials overall, among whom no more than 5 percent were completely undecided in the presidential race according to the most recent Pew survey.
Cook also introduces some side chatter around the game by talking about his own anecdotal impressions of the lack of enthusiasm and interest in politics on the campuses he has visited. Never once does he mention that this phenomenon may be more due to the nature of the GOP primary than any lack of support for President Obama. According to CIRCLE’s analysis of young voters, through Super Tuesday, the vote totals for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul combined was less than half the Millennial votes Barack Obama had received at this point in the primary campaign of 2008.
Cook concludes his completely misleading piece with one nod to the Obama campaign’s policeman standing on the corner about to break up the game. “It’s safe to assume that the president, the White House, and his campaign are looking for ways to deal with this problem [of Millennial voters].” Obama is sure to engage Millennials by talking about the help his administration has provided them with the cost of attending college, his increased funding of more national service opportunities, and the more than two and a half million Millennials who now have health insurance through their parent’s policy thanks to ObamaCare. Already the campaign is gearing up online and offline organizational efforts to bring Millennials to the polls in November that exceed the technological sophistication of its very successful efforts in 2008.
Other than the state of the economy, the most pivotal factor in determining the outcome of the 2012 general election is likely to be the extent to which America’s youngest voters repeat their 2008 electoral performance in 2012. If Millennials vote in numbers proportionate to their presence among eligible voters, their continued support of the president should allow him to overcome any attrition he might suffer among older voters. But if large numbers of Millennials do not vote, the president’s reelection chances will be sharply reduced. That’s one fact that no one should think the Obama campaign will lose sight of despite Cook’s attempts at prestigious feats of political prestidigitation designed to distract the unwitting reader.
On Monday, the Supreme Court will begin an unusual three-day session, hearing oral arguments on a case of clear political, philosophical, and constitutional significance—the 2010 Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”). Every 80 years the Court has decisively entered a sharply divided political process to provide its own answer to the fundamental question of American politics: what is the scope and purpose of government? Each time in the past, it has attempted to reinforce the generational and party alignments of a previous era in the face of challenges from the beliefs and partisan preferences of an emerging civic-oriented generation like today’s Millennials (born 1982-2003).
The New Republic’s health care expert, Jonathan Cohn calls the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act review the “case of the century.” He cites the real possibility that this particular Supreme Court may be willing to reject the legal precedents established during the New Deal by attempting to redefine anew the scope and purpose of federal power.
If it does the Court will be continuing a historical cycle driven by generational and partisan factors that few Court observers have noticed.
The first time the Court attempted to authoritatively resolve an ongoing, deeply divisive political conflict and reaffirm the political arrangements of a previous era was in the dreadful 1857 Dred Scott decision. Before the Court issued its infamous dictum in this case, Congress had struck a careful balance between pro- and anti-slavery forces with the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Based on that agreement, states were admitted to the Union in pairs—one slave and one free. Eventually, driven by the uncompromising ideological beliefs of the Transcendental Generation (born 1792-1821), which were as sharply divided as today’s Baby Boomers, continued accommodation became impossible. In Dred Scott, the Court attempted to impose its own solution by declaring the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. Its ruling, in effect, made slavery legal throughout the entire country and denied citizenship to blacks, even those who were free.
Of the nine justices who ruled on the case, four were members of the Transcendental Generation and a fifth was born in 1790, on the cusp of generational change. Seven were from the era’s dominant Democratic Party. Five of the seven who decided against Dred Scott were from slave states. It was not until President Abraham Lincoln appointed a majority of justices, consisting primarily of Republicans from Union states, that the Court’s regional, generational, and partisan composition changed. During the administrations of Lincoln and his successors, the Court ratified the new governing arrangements that had been achieved in the Civil War.
The same pattern emerged again eight decades later. The argument over the nation’s political fundamentals now dealt with the extent and type of governmental intervention in an industrial economy. In 1935 and 1936, the Supreme Court rallied to protect the old order of laissez faire economics in response to a range of activist government New Deal laws enacted by Franklin Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress with the overwhelming support of America’s newest civic generation, the GI Generation.
Justices Butler, McReynolds, Sutherland, and Van Devanter—nicknamed the “Four Horsemen of Reaction”—often joined with one of the Court’s centrist justices to rule against the core components of the New Deal. Seven of the justices, including three of the Four Horsemen, were of the ideologically-driven Missionary Generation (born 1860-1882). A like number were from the Republican Party that dominated electoral politics from the Civil War to the Great Depression.
It took the political message delivered by FDR’s record-breaking reelection in 1936 to persuade the centrist justices to consistently side with the president and the Court’s liberal “Three Musketeers” and accept the constitutionality of New Deal laws. Retirements and mortality allowed Roosevelt to appoint eight of nine justices by the time he died in 1945, thereby giving the Court a very different generational and partisan cast.
All of the factors that shaped the Supreme Court’s actions in 1857 and in the 1930s are once more in place. Political figures ranging from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney remind us that America is again poised to answer the eternal question of the role and size of government. A new civic generation, the Millennials, is emerging with the potential to dominate and reshape politics in the next four decades. Like the GI Generation in FDR’s day, Millennials strongly support a reformist Democratic president, favoring Barack Obama against his potential 2012 opponents by about the same 2:1 margin they did in 2008.
And as in the past, the generational and partisan composition of the Supreme Court reflects an earlier era. Five of the justices, including a majority of its conservative bloc (Roberts, Thomas, and Alioto) are Boomers (born 1946-1964). The rest are members of the even older Silent Generation (born 1925-1945). A majority are Republicans.
As the hearings approach, many observers believe that, this time, unlike the past, the Supreme Court will follow legal precedent rather than the generational and partisan composition of the justices by affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Jonathan Cohn cites the results of an American Bar Association survey indicating that 85% of a panel of legal “experts” expects that the healthcare law will be affirmed. The survey gave Justice Kennedy a 53% chance of voting to uphold the law. Surprisingly, an even greater number (69%) believed that, based on his presumed desire to avoid a party line split on the Court on a matter of such political significance, Chief Justice Roberts would join Kennedy in voting to affirm. Others have suggested Antonin Scalia might be persuadable as well.
The experts’ predictions may turn out to be right, if the Court follows legal precedent. But history suggests that an equally powerful generational and partisan cycle of Supreme Court decision-making may well cause the Court to overturn key portions of ObamaCare regardless of the legal arguments it will hear this month. If it does, the Supreme Court will once again rule against a civic generation and a president that generation so strongly supports.
History also tells us that may not be the end of the story. To date, Millennials are the most liberal American generation since the GI Generation. Members of the generation favor the Affordable Care Act by 55% to 36%, in part because their generation has directly benefited from the law’s provision that young people can remain on their parent’s health care insurance until they are 26 years old. The large margin by which Millennials support the program significantly explains why, for the first time since the passage of the legislation, at least a plurality of all Americans now approve of it (47% approve to 45% disapprove).
Millennials now comprise one-fourth of American adults; by 2020 they will represent more than one out of three adults in the United States. To the extent that this large cohort is able to bring its own “civic ethos” to bear on America’s political debate, the Court is likely to adhere to another historical precedent of eventually moving beyond the doctrines of an earlier era and accepting those of a new generation. The results of the 2012 election will go a long way toward determining if and when that happens.
Millennials (born 1982-2003) were crucial to Barack Obama’s 2008 election. Other than the state of the economy, the most pivotal factor in determining the outcome of the 2012 general election is likely to be whether or not America’s youngest voters repeat their 2008 electoral performance in 2012.
In November 2008, Millennials comprised about 17% of the electorate and voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama over John McCain (66% to 32%). With older generations dividing their votes almost evenly between the two candidates, Millennials accounted for about 80% of Obama’s national popular vote margin over McCain, turning what would have been a narrow win into a decisive seven-point victory.
So far, the data suggests Millennials are poised to support Barack Obama at the same level this year that they did four years ago. In a recent Pew survey, Millennials preferred Obama over Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, by a 62% to 36% margin. But this year, Millennials make up 24% of those eligible to vote. Coupled with its partisan unity in comparison with older voters, the sheer size of the Millennial generation, America’s largest ever, could make its impact even more decisive in 2012 than in 2008.
Whether Millennials have that kind of impact depends on what the two parties do to attract their votes. For Republicans, the best approach is to connect with Millennials before they are solidly in the Democratic camp for the next three or four decades. A few Millennial Republicans such as John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, and Kristen Soltis, a GOP pollster, have argued that their party should moderate its stance on social issues and immigration in order to have greater appeal to their highly tolerant and diverse generation. So far, however, the GOP presidential field has attracted relatively little Millennial support; through Super Tuesday, the Republican frontrunners (Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul) combined had received less than half the Millennial votes that Barack Obama did in 2008. Perhaps the lack of Millennial interest in the GOP candidates explains why Republicans in at least half of the states are more focused on limiting Millennial voting turnout than in actively courting the generation’s support.
For Democrats, the concern is not so much the partisanship of Millennials, but their engagement. One way to reinforce Millennials’ Democratic leanings is to remind them of their stake in the election by emphasizing the Millennial-friendly policies the Obama administration has pursued. Help with the cost of attending college, funding more national service opportunities, and permitting young people to remain on their parent’s health insurance until age 26 are all initiatives the Obama team could raise with Millennials. Already that campaign is gearing up online and offline organizational efforts to bring Millennials to the polls in November that exceed the technological sophistication of its very successful efforts in 2008.
If Millennials vote in numbers proportionate to their presence among eligible voters, their continued support of the president should allow him to overcome any attrition he suffers among older voters. But if large numbers of Millennials do not vote, the president’s reelection chances will be sharply reduced. Whichever alternative occurs will very likely determine whether Barack Obama or his eventual Republican opponent is inaugurated as president on January 20, 2013.
Q&A on this blog were captured by Policymic here