Our generation is often criticized for our apathy and ignorance. It's lamented that we are too focused on our smartphones and social media sites to be properly informed about the issues. But a new survey may explain why we "young millennials" appear to be less engaged politically.
The Millennial Values and Voter Engagement survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs has created quite a stir over the past week. The results were based on interviews with just over 1200 younger millennials, with a margin of error of 4.3%. “Young millennials" refers to those of us who are aged 18-25, born between 1987 and 1994. The study examines not only our reported voter engagement and political preferences but also our values, worldviews, and our schema of society in general.
In this unprecedented report, some interesting results were discovered, many of which will play a large role in the upcoming election. Obama has long touted the support of the young voters, and this survey shows that young millennials prefer Obama to Romney at a margin of 16%.
Furthermore, the majority of young millennials view social issues (including legalizing same-sex marriage, the DREAM Act, and marijuana legalization) liberally, supporting all three. It is clear that we are more receptive to liberal views on such social issues than our older counterpart generations, yet we still feel as though we don’t have a voice when it comes to politics.
There may be more behind our disappointing voter participation numbers: 66% of younger millennials report being currently registered to vote, and only 50% of younger millennials are certain that they will vote in the 2012 presidential election.
While many cite misinformation, apathy about and boredom with the electoral process and politics as reasons that young people don’t vote, another part of the survey, which revealed a widespread pessimism about politicians and the government in general, caught my attention.
We are the generation that spent much of our formative years in the post-9/11 era: the era of a Bush presidency, two wars, and the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Many of us are finally old enough to vote, but we have little to be optimistic about. We have grown up hearing from our elders that Social Security will run out by the time we are old enough to benefit from it, and that we will be paying for the war on terror for the duration of our working lives.
We feel disillusioned by our government officials. Over 80% of young millennials feel that elected officials in Washington are out of touch. Nearly 2 out of 3 believe that “people like us” have no say in the government, and that it isn’t structured for the benefit of all people. It is statistics such as these that cause me to question whether we must take sole responsibility for our lack of interest in the system or whether the system as simply failed us.
Either way, now is as good a time as any to ignite change, as the 2012 election season draws to a close in November.
And so, even taking the numbers with a grain of salt (as should be the case with most surveys), let this survey be a call to action. Vote. Let your voice be heard. Run for office. Rid yourself of the pessimism. Remember the mantra you’ve heard for much of your life: we are the future.