Consider this: Only 24 percent of millennials are positive they’ll vote this November, according to a new poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics.
They rallied behind change in 2008 but have since steadily dropped off.
But who can blame them? After enduring five long years of an anemic economy and lackluster recovery, many have seen their lives change for the worse. Youth unemployment has been in the double-digits for over 70 consecutive months and two-thirds of college graduates are saddled with student loan debt, with the average debt load of more than $29,000.
This reality has roused the Republican base while leaving Democrats disillusioned by President Obama. The survey found that among young voters, 44 percent of conservatives are enthusiastic to vote in November compared to 35 percent of Democratic constituencies that say the same.
These young adults may hold liberal views on social issues, but they are increasingly reluctant to identify with either party. With 50 percent of millennials describing themselves as political independents, who typically decide election outcomes, they have the ability to sway 2014.
The challenge for Democrats will be to turn these sunny-day voters into regularly engaged poll-goers. A successful strategy to reinvigorate this crucial base must include policies that curb the cost of higher education, create a jobs program and dedicate more funding to programs that serve America’s youth.
Millennials Believe They Live In a Rigged Economy
- 64 percent believe that the gap between the rich and everyone else is greater today than when they were born. A majority (52%) cites this as a major problem. [Harvard IOP, 4/29/14]
- 77 percent say there are too few jobs for people today, and those that do exist do not pay enough or give enough hours for families to live on. [GBA Strategies, 11/26/13]
- 71 percent are dissatisfied with how things are going in the nation today. [Quinnipiac, 1/7/14]
- 71 percent say that people their age face more economic challenges compared with their parents’ generation when they were young. [Pew, 2/23/14]
- 72 percent believe the wealthy in America take too much of the national income, and the middle class and poor get too little. [GBA Strategies, 11/26/13]
Millennials Desire an Activist Government
- 53 percent favor a bigger government that provides more services—the highest of any generation—rather than a small one that offers fewer services. [Pew, 2/23/14]
- 72 percent believe the government should work to substantially reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor. [CNN/ORC, 2/2/14]
- 91 percent believe that the government has a responsibility to use its resources to fight poverty. [GBA Strategies, 11/26/13]
- 54 percent believe it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure all Americans have health care coverage. [Pew, 2/23/14]
Millennials Support Populist Policies That Build a Strong Economy
- 72 percent say that a dollar spent today on education or preventive health care will save money in the long run due to lower crime, fewer social problems, increased productivity, and more stable families. [GBA Strategies, 11/26/13]
- 74 percent support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour or more. [Quinnipiac, 1/7/14]
- 84 percent support creating subsidized jobs for low-income and long-term unemployed workers. [GBA Strategies, 11/26/13]
- 61 percent oppose any cuts to the Social Security program. [Pew, 2/23/14]
- 69 percent favor enacting the “Buffet Rule,” a requirement that people making over $1 million a year pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. [Harvard IOP, 11/11/13]
- 84 percent believe the SNAP program and other nutrition assistance should be expanded. [GBA Strategies, 11/26/13]
- 80 percent support the development of alternative energy production, such as wind and solar power, over the production of traditional fossil fuels. [Gallup, 3/9/14]
- 87 percent support universal pre-kindergarten. [GBA Strategies, 11/26/13]
Millennials Need a Life-Line on Student Loan Debt
- Millennials say paying tuition or college loans is their top financial concern, with 21 percent ranking college costs as the biggest financial problem their families are dealing with. [Gallup, 4/6/14]
- 79 percent say student debt for young people is a serious problem in the United States. [Harvard IOP, 11/11/13]
- 70 percent report that their financial circumstances play an important role in their decision whether or not to attend college. [Harvard IOP, 11/11/13]
- 65 percent of students say they have decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive. [US Pirg, 10/31/13]
- 88 percent favor expanding publicly funded scholarships to help more families afford college. [GBA Strategies, 11/26/13]
Running on a party platform of social inclusion alone won’t work. What millennials want most are jobs. Republicans are running against Obama’s record and Democrats continue to court women; neither party is focused on young adults. The party that puts forward a real plan for jobs instead of platitudes will be successful at engaging and keeping this detached key demographic.