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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Needed: Creative Ideas for Turning Out Millenials in Midterms

Stephanie Czekalinski’s National Journal post (via NJ Daily) “Democrats Have a Millennials Problem” distills one of the more frustrating challenges facing Democrats in the 2014 elections — how to get what may be the most liberal generation of young voters ever to the polls in November. Czekalinski explains:

As the midterms approach, Democrats are underperforming among a voting bloc that supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney almost 2-to-1 in 2012…That’s the takeaway from a new online poll of millennial adults conducted by Harstad Strategic Research. The survey found that although more than seven in 10 millennials lean progressive on a host of topics and policies and support a more involved government, only 28 percent said they will “definitely vote” in the 2014 midterm elections.

You can almost hear the “past is prologue” pundits writing off the millennials as a lost cause for Dems in the 2014 midterms. That would be the safe bet. There is as yet no reason to think they are going to break the historical pattern. Of course the Republicans have done all they can to keep the pattern in place by making it harder for college students to vote in some states.
Yet, the progressive tilt of the millennials is so strong that it’s hard to justify not investing some resources into breaking the pattern at least a small amount, if only in states where there are key races. In Georgia, for example, a better than average turnout could help elect both a Democratic U.S. Senator and Governor, a rare double pick-up for the party holding the White House in the 2nd midterm election. Here’s what the millennials are thinking about the proper role of government:

A majority of millennials were also likely to say they favor a more involved government. Nearly 60 percent said they preferred the government be “on their side” rather than “off their back,” although political ideology influenced respondents’ views. More than 70 percent of millennials who identified as Democrats said they preferred government on their side, compared with only 50 percent of Republicans. Independents fell in between. Race and gender played a role, too, with nonwhites (66 percent) and women (65 percent) more likely than whites (54 percent) and men (54 percent) to say they preferred a more involved government.

Those race and gender caveats are useful for targeting specific millennial sub-groups. And on some key issues favoring Democrats:

Millennials are most persuaded by policies that promote economic opportunity, according to the survey. Nearly 60 percent of millennials said they found messaging regarding making college and student loans more affordable persuasive; 57 percent said that investing in good jobs and improving K-12 education was a persuasive position; 56 percent said that investing more in community colleges was. Background checks for gun sales and gun shows also had the support of 56 percent of respondents.

These are good numbers, and it would be a shame if Dems just shrug them off. And let’s not overlook the huge cuts in higher education in states controlled by Republicans. Dems should do some thinking about the possibility of securing a better than expected turnout of millennials in key states — even a little bit could help in close races.
One friend suggests a voter registration information bank alerting youth via apps that registration deadlines are approaching in particular states (registration status is still the most accurate predictor of who actually votes). Not a bad idea since all millennials seem to live on their cell phones. Another acquaintance half-jokingly suggested a “million robe march” in the Fall — nightime bonfire rallies on college campuses across the nation attended by students and rock bands in their bathrobes etc. focused on registering voters where possible. How about a series of viral YouTube skits challenging young people not to sit out midterms?
No doubt many better ideas could come from the millennials themselves. As the summer vacation begins, now seems like a good time for young activists to organize some creative GOTV projects — and have them up and running when Fall begins.

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