Ladies and Gentlemen, the Next President of the United States … by Process of Elimination Part 5: Independent, Socially-Left-of-Center, Economically-Right-of-Center Millennials Likely Most Valuable Voters in 2016 This is the fifth in a series of reports on the race for U.S. President. The series will unfold by process of elimination, interlocked with trends analyses, and
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Next President of the United States … by Process of Elimination
Part 5: Independent, Socially-Left-of-Center, Economically-Right-of-Center Millennials Likely Most Valuable Voters in 2016
This is the fifth in a series of reports on the race for U.S. President. The series will unfold by process of elimination, interlocked with trends analyses, and conclude with my forecast for the next president.
June 4, 2015 Vol. VIII, No. 9 7:13 am
Which Generation of NC Voters will Dominate 2016 Politics?
One of two politically valuable studies of the generational makeup of the 2016 electorate in North Carolina was published Wednesday, June 3, 2015, by Dr. Rebecca Tippett, Director of Carolina Demography at UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center. Tippett’s report shows that although the population of the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2004) is approaching parity with the Baby Boomers (1946-1964), the political advantage shifts decidedly to Baby Boomers when adjusted for actual registered voters and their active/inactive status on voter rolls.
- 92% of Baby Boomers are registered to vote; 13% are labeled “inactive”
- Only 74% of Millennials are registered to vote; 29% are labeled “inactive”
With these adjustments, North Carolina’s 2016 electorate by generation will likely be:
- Greatest Generation ( - 1927) 1%
- Silent Generation (1928-1945) 13%
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964) 35%
- Generation X (1965-1981) 27%
- Millennials (1982-2004) 24%
Dr. Tippett concludes by noting that the potential political market share of Millennials in 2016 could be further diminished if well-documented, higher turnout trends of older voters hold true.
Baby Boomers Outmuscled Millennials in 2008 and 2012
The second of the two politically valuable studies published this year profiling the likely 2016 electorate was published in January by Dr. Michael Bitzer, Associate Professor of Politics and History at Catawba College. Dr. Bitzer notes that since the beginning of the 21st century, “North Carolina voters in the Millennial generation have gone from 2% of the registered voter pool to 26% in 2014, while Baby Boomers have seen their proportion of the pool shrink from 45% down to 32% over the same time.”
While acknowledging the near parity of the voting age population of Baby Boomers and Millennials, Dr. Bitzer notes that during the last two presidential elections in North Carolina Baby Boomers turned out in significantly higher numbers than Millennials.
- In 2008, 68% of registered Millennials voted; 84% of Baby Boomers voted
- In 2008, Millennials were 13% of all ballots cast; Baby Boomers were 39%
- In 2012, 55% of registered Millennials voted; 78% of Baby Boomers voted
- In 2012, Millennials were 19% of all ballots cast; Baby Boomers 37%
Dr. Bitzer concludes that the political influence of the Millennial generation has only begun to take shape, and that we have yet to see which party will reach out to them most effectively.
Millennials are Half as Conservative as Over-65 Voters
So, are Millennials more likely to vote Democratic or Republican in 2016?
Wednesday, June 3, 2015, Gallup released the aggregate results of surveys conducted in 2013-2015 concluding that “the percentage of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who described themselves as both social and economic conservatives has dropped to 42%, the lowest level Gallup has measured since 2005.”
- 42% of GOP/Lean GOP are conservative on both social and economic policies
- 24% of GOP/Lean GOP are moderate or liberal on social and economic policies
- 20% of GOP/Lean GOP are moderate or liberal on social policies but identify themselves as conservative on economic policy
As to Millennials, the study shows that “the size of the social and economic conservative group is twice as large among Republicans aged 65 and older as it is among those aged 18 to 29.”
For emphasis: Over-65 Republicans are twice as conservative as 18-to-29-year-olds.
Last September, the Pew Research Center published the results of an ideological survey of over 10,000 Americans. Key ideological findings include:
- Millennials are much less conservative (15%) than their grandparents and parents, the “Silent” Generation (38%) and the “Baby Boomers” (34%) respectively
- Even likely GOP Millennials are not as conservative (53%) as their elders (67%)
The Pew study also showed that Millennials are more likely to affiliate with Democrats (50%) than Republicans (34%) nationally.
The statewide North Carolina survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in early April, 2015, shows just how wide the political chasm is between Millennials and older generations.
- Obama has a 58% approval among 18-to-29-year-olds; only 35% for over-65 voters
- In a hypothetical matchup between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, 18-to-29-year-olds give Clinton a 22-point advantage (Clinton 50%; Bush 28%)
- Over-65 voters give Bush a 19-point advantage over Clinton (Clinton 37%; Bush 56%)
Millennials May be the Most Valuable Voters in 2016
My sense is that Millennials just may be the deciding factor in the race for the White House as well as statewide races here and around the country. My reasoning is based on the likelihood that Millennials will be the largest group of undecided voters in 2016.
Their value as the largest group of persuadable voters is enriched by the fact that most voters in the older generations are predictably clustered in ideologically recalcitrant and partisan camps; neither of which is large enough to dominate North Carolina or national elections.
Democrats, in order to secure the lion’s share of younger voters in races against Republicans, must move their identity closer to the center on economic policy. Millennials are more cost-conscious because they came of age politically during a time of less discretionary income due to the recession and employment challenges.
Republicans, in order to secure the lion share of younger voters in races against Democrats, must move their identity closer to the center on social policy. As noted earlier, Millennials are twice as liberal and half as conservative as their parents and grandparents on social issues. Older generations tolerate social differences. Millennials celebrate social differences.
The bottom line: Independent, socially-left-of-center, economically-right-of-center Millennials will be the largest group of undecided voters and therefore the most valuable voters in 2016. How large? Large enough to have a decisive impact on the outcome of statewide races here in North Carolina; large enough to determine who wins the presidency.
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