Millennials

Column: "The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas"

US News and World Report has published Simon's fourth column, "The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Why Democrats Dominate," in which Simon considers what perhaps may be the most important political story of the past generation: the transformation of Democratic Party into a successful governing party with popular leaders well regarded by the American people. 

An Excerpt from "The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas"

Responding to a series of recent polls showing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton within striking distance in Texas, Real Clear Politics has moved it from a "lean red" to "toss up" state. In this memorable political year, the apparent move of Texas from red to purple state has to be considered one of the more significant and unexpected developments, particularly since Clinton and the Democratic National Committee have made no effort to put the state in play.

It is hard to overstate the importance of Texas to the national Republican Party. It is the only big state left in the country that Republicans regularly win at the presidential level. It produced the only two Republican presidents since Reagan, and has produced many more important national Republicans, such as Tom DeLay, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and John Cornyn. It exports hundreds of millions of dollars to GOP organizations and candidates across the country. And perhaps most importantly, there are more Republicans in Congress from Texas than any other state, and many of them are in positions of leadership. Losing Texas, or even having it become competitive, would be a significant blow to the national GOP.

They better get ready.

Key to President George W. Bush's narrow victories was his success in heavily Hispanic states. Over the course of two elections he won Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas twice, and New Mexico once. As the Hispanic population has surged throughout the country, and become about two to one Democratic along the way, these states – with the exception of Texas – have drifted away from the GOP.

Today, Clinton leads in the five states other than Texas, and the Trump campaign isn't even competing in Colorado or New Mexico. And we all know the story of California, the first state to go through this demographic transformation. The state which helped birth the modern conservative movement and gave us the two Republican presidents prior to the Bushes – Reagan and Nixon – is on the verge of seeing its Republican Party go out of business.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: Thoughts on the New Democratic Coalition (esp Hispanics/Millennials)

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Using our regular polling aggregator, Clinton leads this week 46/42. The race is clearly tightening, both across the country and in the 13 battleground states. This of course was to be suspected. Trump had been struggling for months to consolidate the Republican electorate, and is slowly, slowly doing so now. One should expect him to continue to do so until he is regularly polling at 45%. The question begs – can Clinton answer, regain some of the standing she’s lost in recent weeks, and put the race away?

To do so Clinton is now functionally running against three candidates – Trump, Johnson and Stein. Simply, if Clinton performs well at the debates, spends her time, particularly in the 1st debate, making her case, laying out her plans, conveying her optimism and can do spirit, she should be able to pull voters who’ve wandered over to Johnson and Stein. But the campaign would be wise now to start kicking around ways to create more excitement about this race for Democratic voters – inspirational videos, more Michelle Obama and Cory Booker, things that provide a lift and resist the deeply negative environment that I worry is indirectly suppressing our voters. We need more “for” to complement the very well articulated with hundreds of millions of dollars of the “against.” And count me in on the idea of having aging politicians lecturing voters why the vote for a Clinton alternative is “youthful” or a “waste” is itself a waste of time. Time now to focus on making our case. And as I wrote last week, we have a compelling case to make indeed.

On the new Democratic Coalition and turnout – In the last week we’ve seen a stream of stories about how Democratic voters are less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans, and emerging weaknesses with two of the pillars of the muscular new Democratic coalition, Hispanics and Millennials. Whether this is true or not is a bit hard to tell, but that is in some ways the point. Given how important this new electorate is to 2016 and the future of the Democratic Party, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what is going on with these voters at this point in the election cycle.

A decade ago NDN was among a handful of organizations and researchers who pointed out that American politics was in the process of going through a huge demographic transformation, one driven by the explosion of two emergent groups, Hispanics and Millennials. Perhaps more than any other organization in American politics NDN focused on these two groups in particular, capped by the major magazine piece Pete Leyden and I penned for Mother Jones in 2007 (yes prior to Obama winning in 2008). In our piece, and in the hundreds of presentations we’ve done on the subject, we argued that these demographic changes represented a big “opportunity” for Democrats if their politics could adapt to the sensibilities and the far different media consumption habits of these new potential voters. We do not and have never believed demography was destiny. It was an opportunity to be seized, and never guaranteed (Bush showed us this in 2000 and 2004).

In the last few elections we’ve seen the opportunity this emerging electorate offers, and the perils for Democrats in not getting it right. In part by surfing this demographic wave, Barack Obama received 53 and 51 percent of the vote in his two elections, the best showing for Democrats in back to back elections since 1940 and 1944. But at the same time, during this same period of historic success, we had two disastrous midterm elections. In a series of essays (here and here) and a major poll we did in the spring of 2010, NDN warned that these new voters were far less committed to voting in mid-terms and that left unaddressed we could see a very bad election ahead. My own view since 2010 has been simple: as Tip O’Neill said, we cannot expect someone’s vote unless we ask for it, and we just weren’t asking for the votes of this new electorate with the money and strategic intent we were with the rest of the electorate. This was a bit of an “old dogs new tricks problem,” and as Harry Reid says in today’s Washington Post, it is also expensive (and I would add hard, complicated and requiring the reinvention of the traditional 20th century campaign model).

So heading into 2016 it was conventional wisdom that a great deal of the Democratic Party’s success would ride on the ability to get this new Democratic Coalition (it is not Obama’s coalition, and I will leave that for another day) to be actively engaged in the election. This was particularly important, for given the growth of both Hispanics and Millennials, the electorate this year was projected to be about 2 percentage points more favorable to the Democratic nominee. Getting this part right, holding all other things equal, would make success far more likely.

Which was why I became loudly opposed to the Democratic debate schedule when it was first announced last summer. It was in many ways it was the exact opposite of what was required by the Party to address this strategic opportunity/challenge. Nothing was built in to appeal to Millennials, the Hispanic/Spanish part was TBD, and the choice of old school broadcast networks on the weekends was seemingly designed to create as few impressions with all voters as possible. Given the success of the Party and its 26 debates and highly competitive primary in 2008, it was hard to justify a big change in the debate strategy; it was impossible to justify the schedule the DNC committed to last summer. Look at the results: the GOP’s debates were seen by over 100m more people than the Democrats, an impression gap worth literally hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. And we did nothing to address this core strategic challenge that we need to design and learn new ways to reach new audiences that are far more open to hearing from us than them.

The burden of re-inventing the 20th century broadcast model of American politics falls far more heavily on the Democrats, as our coalition is younger and has far more rapidly left the reach of a traditional 30 second spot. The DNC should have used these debates to have experimented with the model, bringing in new partners and models, showcased younger more diverse leaders, etc. Lots of things could have been tried, but instead we relied on media partners from the predigital age (incl PBS!!!!!!!!!!!) of media and few people watched. No Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Snapchat, Twitch, Vice. Our clear message to this emerging electorate who remain episodic voters – our party is not speaking to you. It was one of the greatest mistakes by a major American political party in my lifetime.

Given the fear Democrats should have had about this new coalition not adequately showing up in 2016 literally everything the Party should have done these past two years should have been designed to engage these new audiences in new ways. And that’s why reading these articles – Spanish language ads starting 10 days ago (In May in 2012, March in 2004), the Millennial effort beginning today, no clear evidence of major Hispanic strategy at the DSCC – you just have to sit back and say WTF guys. Given both the promise and very real challenges of engaging the new electorate the only justifiable strategy would have been to spend more money and to have created more impressions (asking for their vote) than ever before.There is no strategic logic for less, particularly when there are as many as 20 million more Millennials and 4m more Hispanics in the electorate than in 2012.

In my mind, the Democratic Party had one truly significant strategic challenge this cycle – to have ensured that we had a tested, true and funded national strategy to ensure this emerging electorate did not underperform again. Sitting where I sit today, it is clear that we are not there yet. Democrats are still likely to win this year but man is it long past time for there to be a big national conversation about how are going to finally once and for all become the party of the digital age and this new electorate that offers us so much promise and opportunity. 

P.S. Simon wrote about these matters extensively in his 2014 post-election memo, "A Wake Up Call For Democrats".

Mondays Musings: Ted and Donald, Millennials in Play? Debates matter

Trump and Cruz rising, Hillary losing a bit of steam? - Lots of new polls out these last few days, all showing the same thing - Trump and Cruz have momentum. 6 weeks now till the Iowa Caucuses and at this point Trump and Cruz seem to be creating a new upper tier in the race, with Rubio perhaps being in the second tier all by himself and everyone else in tiers below. The GOP race, with perhaps five candidates still holding out hope (add Bush and Christie to the top three), enters a very intense period now with three debates in the next six weeks, 2 more in February and of course the first four states voting also in February. The Republicans debate tonight on CNN – be sure to watch! (and you can catch me discussing Trump from O’Reilly’s show last Friday night and this extended clip from Howard Kurtz’s Sunday show on Fox).

On the Democratic side there is some evidence of Hillary coming back down to earth after her strong debate performances, and day long Benghazi testimony. In the NBC/WSJ poll Rubio gains 6 points against her and now bests her in a direct head to head 48/45, and Cruz moves from 41/49 to 45/48. The best Iowa poll now has it Clinton 48/39, a bit too close for comfort for Clinton who has lead in some Iowa polls by 20 or more. Even the new WaPo/ABC poll out this morning has her only beating Trump by 6 points among registered voters, 50/44. Since her Benghazi testimony she has been out of the public eye – we are seeing some evidence now that this could be making a difference. All of this data points to the simple reality that nothing is being handed to Hillary Clinton, and she is going to have to fight hard to win the nomination and the general election next year.

Millennials in play? - I am quoted in a Greg Sargent Washington Post piece yesterday looking at what has to be considered a potentially ominous development for the Democrats – Rubio matching Hillary Clinton with millennial voters (and thus beating her 48/45) in the new NBC/WSJ poll. Greg’s piece is well worth reading in its entirety.

The debates matter - Pew has a new poll out showing just how important the debates have been this year to the public discourse. And from NDN’s point of view, just how risky the DNC’s duck and cover strategy has been.  As a reminder so far this year 73m people have watched the GOP debates, 25m the Democratic ones. 

SNL - Be sure to watch Will Ferrell's return as W Bush in a brand new off the charts awesome SNL skit.

"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here.

Watch for Millennial Oriented SOTU from President Obama

 

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 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. He is sure to return to that formulation in his State of the Union speech given how popular  his policy preferences are on 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.

For instance, the majority of women, millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics and college graduates, as well as those living in urban and suburban areas and those in the Northeast, all support controlling gun ownership over protecting gun owners' rights. The president enters the fray with the full support of his coalition on this issue and many others such as immigration reform, climate change and gay rights. 

Futhermore, his economic prescriptions focused on investing in infrastructure and research and making all forms of eduction from pre-school through college more accessible and affordable, speak directly to the most important issues for Millennials. 

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.

 

A Millennial Era Approach to Preventing Gun Violence

President Obama’s comprehensive proposal for preventing gun violence in America is to be commended. The focus for policy makers shouldn’t be to try and sort out which of his ideas are politically feasible but rather which ones will work to accomplish the goal of preventing gun violence of all types, while preserving the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Linking the ideal outcome to a focus on the pragmatic steps we can take now to make progress toward the ultimate goal is how the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003) approaches this type of challenge and, in this case, it holds great promise for actually fixing one of the most intractable problems facing the United States. 

As with many other social issues, Millennials have a much more liberal perspective on solutions to gun violence than their older siblings--members of Generation X, who grew up when Ronald Reagan was president. By a 55% to 36% margin, Millennials favor taking steps to control gun ownership over protecting the right to own guns. Only seniors, normally more conservative on these types of issues, approach this level of support for government action to make our cities and neighborhoods safer. By contrast, Generation X, born 1965 to 1981, is the one generation which , even after Newtown, believes it is more important to protect gun ownership rights than to control the use of firearms (by a 48% to 42% margin). 

A recent report from the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute’s Campus Network (RICN), underlines both Millennials’ support for taking on the issue and their focus on pragmatic steps to do so. Starting with its title, “Young People’s Concrete Policy Recommendations to Address Gun Violence Prevention in America,” the report analyzes each side of the debate solely in terms of what solutions are likely to work. The recommendations correctly focus on steps to decrease access to semiautomatic weapons and any ammunition clip with more than ten rounds. It strongly endorses the creation of comprehensive databases that would have to be accessed for any gun transaction to take place, with a special emphasis on ensuring the names of those with serious mental illness are included in the database.  With special insight, the report, by a group of progressive Millennials, properly dismisses the distracting idea of making the current debate about culture or media coverage, as opposed to taking action.

There is plenty of evidence in the nation’s successful efforts to reduce crime to suggest that this Millennial approach to the problem will work. As Simon Rosenberg, has pointed out, violent crime, with the sole exception of gun violence,  particularly in country’s largest cities, has dropped dramatically since 1993. The principle reason for that decline was the introduction of the CompStats process by Bill Bratton as police chief of New York City, which led to a  77% decline in crime  in that city alone since then.  Vice President Al Gore’s reinventing government initiative, recognized the efficacy of this program and spread knowledge of Bratton’s approach to  police chiefs  across the country. This is one of the key reasons why there has been a continued decline since then in the nation’s crime rates. Despite economic hard times, major increases in our juvenile population as Millennials became teen agers, and a series of other societal developments that traditional sociologists and criminologists had predicted would cause an increase in crime, the progress continues. 

CompStats uses current, accurate information to analyze where crimes are being committed and by whom. The goal is to get bad guys off the streets and to flood high crime areas with police resources. The gun violence analogy to this simple and effective approach would be to keep people who lack the intention or ability to use guns responsibly from buying firearms and to heavily penalize those who use them irresponsibly. A comprehensive assault weapon and ammunition clip ban of the type the RICN advocates has proven to be effective in other countries in limiting access to guns, and a fully developed and federally mandated background check for all gun transactions should be instituted to  keep the wrong people from being able to buy guns.  

This still leaves the problem of existing weaponry, but buy-back programs both in the US, and elsewhere, have been effective in further  reducing gun violence. The attempts of  NRA supporters to short circuit such efforts by trying to buy the guns being offered instead of letting the police destroy them testifies to the ultimate effectiveness of this approach to reducing  the nation’s stockpile of unnecessary weapons. And the success of the state of Virginia, a gun lover’s and seller’s paradise, in reducing gun violence by making it clear that criminals who use guns will be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law has proven its value as the right public policy approach to go after those who should never be allowed to use a gun. 

CompStats and the RICN report provide one further valuable lesson to keep in mind as the debate over President Obama’s proposals heats up. When Bratton first introduced the concept to his leadership team, its members told him he could never accomplish his initial goal of reducing crime in NYC by 40% within three years. Their argument was that since the police had no control over the causes of crime—poverty, ethnic and racial tensions, or educational levels--it was not possible or even fair to hold the police accountable for its reduction. But Bratton made it clear that it was not necessary to address the underlying causes of bad behavior to reduce it substantially by simply focusing on the individuals committing crimes and eliminating places where they might be tempted to do so. 

Similarly, it can and probably will be argued ad infinitum whether or not violent entertainment creates a fascination with guns that leads to gun violence. And an equally unproductive debate can be held over the media’s role in glorifying those who commit such acts. But no matter who is right, there is no reason to have that debate delay the country from doing something to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them improperly. With technologies much less sophisticated than what is available today to sift and sort big databases, Bratton’s CompStats process was still able to pinpoint where to direct efforts to take bad guys off the street and dramatically change the safety of our cities.    

The nation’s consciousness has been stirred by the slaughter of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut. But as Newark Mayor Cory Booker correctly points out, gun violence takes the lives of more than thirty people, about as many who died at Virginia Tech,  every single day. Now that Newtown and the President’s proposals have focused the nation’s attention on the problem of how to end such senseless slaughter, attention must be paid to the Millennial Generation’s ideas on how to meet this challenge. More than any other generation, it is their future that is at risk if we fail to do so.  

 

2012: Another Millennial Triumph

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% 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% of the

electorate. Although final turnout numbers are difficult to calculate until all the votes are

counted, CIRCLE research data 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 sixty 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% 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% of them voted for his re-election this year.  Even though there are significant ethnic differences within a generation that is 40% 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.  

Generational Cycle Is Turning on Immigration

This article originally appeared in the National Journal

Americans have been of two minds about immigration almost since the founding of the Republic. On the one hand, we swell with pride at the welcoming words of Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty sonnet: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,” and coverage of the swearing in of new citizens from around the globe has become a staple of July Fourth television newscasts.

By contrast, each new large wave of newcomers has led to the emergence of nativist groups and to laws designed to minimize immigration. The arrival of millions of German and Irish immigrants before the Civil War led to the creation of the anti-immigrant Order of the Star Spangled Banner and the electoral successes of the American (or Know Nothing) Party in 1854 and 1856. The waves of Eastern and Southern European immigrants in the late-19th and early-20th centuries produced a revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the passage of a 1924 law, which imposed low nationality quotas on immigrants from that part of Europe as well as Asia and Africa. 

But history also indicates that, although mixed attitudes about it may endure, concern with immigration and fear of immigrants rises and falls as new generations with different attitudes emerge. 

A February national survey of nearly 1,500 Americans between the ages of 18 and 64, conducted by communication research firm Frank N. Magid Associates, suggests that the United States is about to enter a period in which the debate about immigration should become less contentious, primarily because of the increasing presence within the electorate of the tolerant and diverse millennial generation, a cohort now in its teens and 20s. Millennials will represent one out of every three eligible voters by the end of this decade.  

According to Magid, about three in 10 Americans are completely opposed to all immigration—legal and illegal—while an identical number perceive a need for even undocumented immigration, believing that “the United States needs illegal immigrants to do work others won’t.”

The attitudes of other Americans fall between these extremes. The majority agree that “immigration has made America a great country” and that “immigration is an American legacy worth keeping.” About 43 percent would favor making their community “immigrant friendly.” At the same time, 71 percent say that while they favor legal immigration, “illegal immigration is out of control.” Just over 40 percent agrees that “immigration is making America worse,” while only 30 percent disagrees.

Millennials, on the other hand, tend to be more positive about immigrants. For most millennials, immigration is not an abstract or academic matter. It is as up close and personal as their parents, their friends, their classmates, and their next-door neighbors. Nearly one out of five of them have at least one immigrant parent, and almost 30 percent of millennials are Hispanic or Asian—groups containing large numbers of recent immigrants.

As a result, millennials agree more strongly than older generations that “immigration is an American legacy worth keeping,” 57 percent to 52 percent. The majority, 51 percent, also agrees that their community should be “immigrant friendly,” compared with 39 percent of older generations.

They are also less likely to believe than their elders that “illegal immigration is out of control,” 67 percent to 75 percent. Millennials are also likely to accept the proposition that the country “needs illegal immigrants to do the work others won’t,” 37 percent to 22 percent of older generations.

Generational theory says it is the historic role of “civic” generations, such as today’s millennials and last century’s GI generation, to be the cohort in which the acculturation and toleration of newcomers to America reaches its apex.

A major theme of GI generation writers ranging from novelist Herman Wouk, (Marjorie Morningstar), to playwright Neil Simon (Biloxi Blues , Brighton Beach Memoirs) and sociologist Will Herberg (Protestant, Catholic, Jew) was the depiction of the way in which GIs of various ethnicities emerged from their immigrant homes and neighborhoods to achieve acceptance within the larger society.

In 1965, it was a GI generation-dominated Congress and GI president, Lyndon Johnson, that passed immigration-reform legislation overturning the nationality quotas established in 1924. Now, as a new ethnically diverse civic generation emerges in large numbers, American politics will renew its cyclical rhythm and return to policies that once again tolerate and include immigrants from every part of the globe.  

Full disclosure: Michael D. Hais retired in 2006 as vice president of entertainment research from Frank N. Magid Associates after a 22-year career with Magid and continues to do occasional work for the firm.

 

Meet the Plurals

America’s destiny as a pluralistic democracy took a new and unprecedented turn last month. 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 Millenials. 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.  

 

Millennials Still Supporting Obama's Re-election

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. 

Will Millennials Still Be Liberal When They're Old and Gray?

The Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003) is the cohort most in favor of using the federal government to promote economic stability and equality since the GI Generation of the 1930s and 1940s. The attitudes of Millennials were heavily shaped by the protected and group-oriented way in which they were reared and their experience of feeling the full brunt of the Great Recession as they emerged into adulthood.  

As a result, the biggest political story of the first half of the 21st century may well be the extent to which the largest American generation ever retains its economic liberalism and thereby shapes the direction of public policy in coming decades. If history is any guide, much of that story’s plot will be written during the next four or five years.

Millennials deserve America’s sympathies for the disproportionate impact the Great Recession has had on their generation. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, a clear plurality (41%) of Americans think that young, rather than middle-aged (29%) or older  (24%) adults are having the toughest time in today’s economy. And they are right.  Last year, the unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds (16.3%) and 25-29 year olds (10.3%) was well above that of those 35-64 (7%). Even among those 18-24 year olds fortunate enough to find full-time employment, real median weekly earnings were down by six percent over the previous four years. Not surprisingly, the weak economy has had a profound impact on the personal lives of Millennials. Nearly half (49%) say they have taken a job (often part time) just to pay the bills. A third (35%) have returned to school, something that may pay benefits in the long term, but is at the expense of current earnings. About a quarter have taken an unpaid job and/or moved back in with their parents (24% each). About one in five have postponed having a baby (22%) and/or getting married (20%). Less than a third (31%) say that they earn or have enough money to lead the kind of life they want.

Their experiences with the Great Recession have only reinforced Millennials’ support for economically activist government. Last November, when Pew asked whether Americans preferred a larger government that provided more services or a smaller government that provided fewer services, Millennials opted for a bigger government over a smaller one by a large 54% to 35% margin. By contrast, 54% of Boomers (born 1946-1964) and 59% of Silents (born 1925-1945) favor a smaller government. .

In addition, a majority of (55% to 41%) Millennials favored a greater level of federal spending to help the economy recover from the recession rather than reducing the federal budget deficit. Millennials also continue to support governmental efforts to lessen economic inequality; 63% agreed that government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep. Consistent with their overall attitudes toward the size of government, the two oldest generations—Boomers and Silents—favored reduced spending and a more limited government role in promoting economic equality.

The tendency of people to retain their political viewpoints and preferences throughout their lives suggests that once they are set, Millennial Generation attitudes toward government’s proper role in the economy will persist for decades. This conclusion was recently confirmed by   economists Paola Giuliano and Antonio Spilimbergo. In a longitudinal analysis of survey data collected annually since 1972, they found that experiencing an economic recession during one’s “formative” years (18-25 years old) led Americans to favor “leftist” governmental policies that would “help poor people” and lessen “income inequality.” These attitudes were not influenced by experiencing a recession either before or after the formative years and remained in place even when controlled for demographic variables such as sex, race, and social class. However, the same data suggested that the deeper and more sustained the recession, the lower the level of confidence survey respondents had in governmental institutions such as Congress and the presidency.  

The success of governmental action in dealing with the Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s put the GI or Greatest Generation on the path of lifelong support for governmental activism. After the nation’s victory over the Axis and the economic boom that followed, positive perceptions of government and political efficacy were virtually universal among Americans. Today, although America has begun to shake off the worst aspects of the Great Recession, unemployment remains stubbornly high and growth rates remain below the level needed to make dramatic dents in unemployment rates, especially among Millennials.

So far Millennial beliefs in activist, egalitarian government policies have not been shaken by the slow pace of the recovery or what  some may perceive as an inadequate federal response. The extent to which those attitudes persist in future decades, when Millennials will represent over one out of every three adult Americans, could depend on how well the government deals with the economic challenges the nation faces in the years just ahead.

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