Will Millennials Make a Difference in the Florida Primary?

Will Florida's millennials make a difference in today's GOP primary? 

Not much, says a new study conducted by the University of Florida entitled, "2011 Florida Civic Health Index: The Next Generation," which reveals that Florida's young people are less engaged in voting, volunteerism, and public debate than millennials in other states.

Fewer than half of Florida's millennials were registered to vote in 2010, and of those who were registered, only slightly more than one in five actually voted in the state's high-profile races for governor and the U.S. Senate.

Moreover, the state's millennials are far less engaged than young people in other states. They are less likely to attend public meetings, volunteer with community organizations, or engage with elected officials. The state ranked 48th out of 50 for participation by millennials in any kind of group, and 46th for having attended at least one public meeting in the past year.

Interestingly, young African-Americans in Florida, are actually more likely to register and vote than non-Hispanic whites.

The study was conducted by the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, the Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at the University of Central Florida, the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida and the National Conference on Citizenship.

The authors say they plan to boost youth engagement through increased civic education and service-learning opportunities. Frey, a Republican and former member of the U. S. House of Representatives said it is “critical” to find ways to engage more members of that generation. “The extent to which these young men and women organize, volunteer, vote and petition their representatives,” he said, ”will determine how well Florida is governed.”

One effort that may help is being led by Generation Opportunity, an organization conducting a grassroots tour through Florida to help mobilize young people. For the forth tim this year, Generation Opportunity is listening to and signing up "young people concerned about how the poor economy and lack of jobs are limiting their ability to find work, gain critical skills, and pursue their dreams."

Field staff conducted a tour of college campuses in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami areas, including stops at Broward College, the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Nova Southeastern University. 

"Young adults in Florida are very open with their views about how the country is headed in the wrong direction and how the poor economy and lack of jobs have already had a negative impact on their dreams, plans, and careers. In Florida, young adults are tired of having their lives put on hold because of the bad policies coming out of Washington and the lack of economic opportunity – they are eager for a change in the status quo in order to improve their daily lives,” said Paul T. Conway, President of Generation Opportunity.

In the South Carolina primary, only 8% of eligible voters under the age of 30 voted, and 31% supported Ron Paul. In New Hampshire, that number was 15%, and 46% of those voters supported Ron Paul.

It will be interesting to see whether those figures are dramatically different for Florida's millennials after tonight. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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