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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

“Millenial Generation” Leads Pro-Democratic Shift

This item from the TDS staff was originally published on May 19, 2009
In his May 18 ‘Public Opinion Snapshot’ at the Center for American Progress (CAP) website, Ruy Teixeira expounds on an extremely encouraging development for progressive Democrats, the dawning of the “millennial generation” — those born between 1978 and 2000 — as a political force. As Teixeira explains:

Between now and 2018, the number of Millennials of voting age will be increasing by about 4 and a half million a year and Millennial eligible voters by about 4 million a year. And in 2020, the first presidential election where all Millennials will have reached voting age, this generation will be 103 million strong, of which about 90 million will be eligible voters. Those 90 million Millennial eligible voters will represent just under 40 percent of America’s eligible voters.
Last November’s election was the first in which the 18- to 29-year-old age group was drawn exclusively from the Millennial generation, and they gave Obama a whopping 34-point margin, 66 percent to 32 percent. This compares to only a 9-point margin for Kerry in 2004. Behind this striking result is a deeper story of a generation with progressive views in all areas and big expectations for change that will fundamentally reshape our electorate.

Teixeira references another new CAP study “The Political Ideology of the Millennial Generation,” by John Halpin and Karl Agne, which indicates

Overall, Millennials expressed far more agreement with the progressive than conservative arguments. Indeed, of the 21 values and beliefs garnering majority support in the survey, only four can be classified as conservative. Moreover, six of the top seven statements in terms of level of agreement were progressive statements. These statements included such items as the need for government investment in education, infrastructure, and science; the need for a transition to clean energy; the need for America to play a leading role in addressing climate change; the need to improve America’s image around the world; and the need for universal health coverage..,.When asked in the 2008 National Election Study whether we need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems or whether the free market can handle these problems without government being involved, Millennials, by a margin of 78 to 22 percent, demonstrated an overwhelming preference for strong government.

On May 13th, David Madland and Teixeira had a more in-depth post, “New Progressive America: The Millennial Generation,” on the political attitudes of this important demographic group. First, the demographic explosion:

We can start with the sheer size of this generation. Between now and 2018, the number of Millennials of voting age will increase by about four and a half million a year, and Millennial eligible voters will increase by about 4 million a year. In 2020—the first presidential election where all Millennials will have reached voting age—this generation will be 103 million strong, of which about 90 million will be eligible voters. Those 90 million Millennial eligible voters will represent just under 40 percent of America’s eligible voters.
The diversity of this generation is as impressive as its size. Right now, Millennial adults are 60 percent white and 40 percent minority (18 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black, 5 percent Asian, and 3 percent other). And the proportion of minority Millennial adults will rise to 41 percent in 2012, 43 percent in 2016, and 44 percent in 2020 (21 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black, 6 percent Asian, and 3 percent other). This shift should make the Millennial generation even more firmly progressive as it fully enters the electorate, since minorities are the most strongly progressive segment among Millennials.


Most encouraging, the progressive attitudes among the Millennial Generation are not confined to young people of color:

…White Millennials are far more progressive than the population as a whole in every area, on cultural, economic, domestic policy issues, and more. In 2008, they supported Obama by 54-44, a 21-point shift toward the progressive candidate compared to 2004. Not only did Obama win white Millennials overall, but he also won both white Millennial college graduate and noncollege voters (by 16 and 6 points respectively). The latter result includes a 12-point (54-42) margin for Obama among the overwhelmingly working-class 25- to 29-year-old white noncollege group, a stunning 40-point swing relative to Kerry’s 35-63 drubbing among the same group in 2004. This suggests that as relatively progressive white working-class Millennials replace older white working-class voters in the electorate, the white working class as a whole could become less conservative and more open to progressive ideas and candidates.

Teixeira and Madland go on to outline the progressive views of Millennials on key issues, like health care, abortion, same sex marriage, foreign policy and Iraq, unions, government’s role in the economy and clean energy. The authors conclude that the Millennial Generation “will fundamentally reshape our electorate…We are on course for a new progressive America, and the rise of the Millennial generation is one main force behind this transformation.”

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