Elections are getting weirder and weirder, and 2016 is no different. It’s a doozy.
You probably already know why. You’ve seen it yourself. From Donald Trump’s … everything to the intense focus on Hillary’s emails to Bernie Sanders’ eternal sore throat and electro-shock hair, the 14 years this election’s seemingly been dragging on for has been full of twists, turns, surprises and off-putting Jim Webb smiles (remember him?).
And like the radiator in an apartment owned by a stingy landlord, it’s only barely started heating up.
Just like in 2008, this race will be largely decided by young voters. Young voters who, as a new poll reveals, are pretty much done with the status quo.
A new poll conducted by Rock the Vote and USA Today reveals young voters (the millennial electorate if you will) as concerned, deeply unsatisfied, and detached.
“Millennials, like the general population, are not as enthusiastic about participating in 2016 as this country needs them to be,” Ashley Spillane, president of Rock the Vote says, speaking of the poll results showing that about 6 in 10 young people plan to vote in November.
“We as a country have work to do to restore this generation’s faith that not only is voting a way to make a difference, it is THE way and it really does matter.”
What or who millennials want to vote for, however, is becoming uncertain and a lot less traditional and predictable.
1. The millennial voter is counterculture and looking to shake things up.
“Millennials, as has historically been the case, lean toward the candidates who have portrayed themselves as counterculture and outside the system,” Spillane says.
This is certainly evident in the millennial support for both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Both candidates represent a strong pivot away from politics as usual … in their own ways of course.
Bernie’s support among young voters is huge. Rock the Vote’s poll shows him leading Clinton 46% to 35%, and a Quinnipiac University poll shows him beating Trump by 13 points.
For millennial Republicans though, Trump is their guy. Rock the Vote’s poll has him leading the Republican field at 26%, which is an easy lead but much lower than his support in the general electorate.
However, “Republican” and “Democrat” might be outdated terms when talking about the largest voting demographic in America.
2. Millennials do not reliably lean towards one party or the other.
Millennials are largely issues-based voters. They care about the things that directly affect them, and they’re willing to cross supposed party lines to address their concerns.
“A huge portion of the millennial generation is not affiliated with either political party, and their attitudes about issues give candidates from all political parties the opportunity to create solutions that address the things millennials care about,” Spillane explains.
The issues in question are the same ones being discussed nationwide — things like gun control, refugees, and the economy.
But despite these issues being presented as hotly contentious to the general public, for millennials, their minds are pretty much made up:
Other issues that millennials are overwhelmingly concerned about include the legalization of marijuana, which Time reports has 71% support among millennials, and student loan debt, which was their second-ranked concern according to Rock the Vote’s poll.
3. The #1 thing millennials are worried about is the economy.
While the presidential candidates and news outlets would have us believe that terrorism is the scariest thing Americans face daily, millennials are far more afraid that they’ll be un- or underemployed for extended periods of time.
“The oldest millennials were only 27 years old when the recession began,” Spillane explains.
“This means that they have experienced struggles in employment very early on in their careers and that they had to make important decisions about jobs and education during a time of economic uncertainty where opportunities seemed scarce.”
Indeed, a millennial facing the current job market doesn’t have it easy.
Despite being the most educated and qualified generation in American history, and despite unemployment being at its lowest since the recession, most young adults struggle to make a paycheck that reflects that, if they have a job at all. That struggle is also multiplied by the most student loan debt in history.
So yeah. You can mark millennials down as “concerned.”
4. Despite that economic concern, millennials actually remain pretty optimistic.
57% of the millennials who responded to the poll said they’re optimistic about the future of the United States while 34% are not. The other 9% were probably too busy texting or Snapchatting or something.
Millennials recognize that they have the opportunity and responsibility to be the difference they want to see in the world. Despite their attitudes about voting, young people know they have more opportunities than ever to get involved in the issues they care about.
“Young people volunteer at record levels, care deeply about issues, and take actions online and on social media,” says Spillane. “Even though young people are frustrated with the state of politics today, we have tools at our disposal to make things better, and that is reason for optimism.”
5. Even better — millennials’ optimism is well-founded because there are a LOT of them.
As America’s largest generation, their numbers alone mean that the issues they care about will be in the conversation. If every millennial voted for the same candidate, that candidate would win in a landslide.
Millennials are the party that will definitively decide the future of this country. So it’s important that they, that we, get involved and stay involved.
“Our research shows that when a person votes, they begin to identify themselves as a voter — and that this is habit forming,” says Spillane.
It’s a good habit to have.
That and — you know — flossing.