Study: Millennials Care the Most About Unemployment, Not Climate Change or Income Inequality

Harvard University’s Institute of Politics released a report that sheds light on the issues that are important to millenials. Spoiler alert: it's not climate change, it's not fixing income inequality — it's the unemployment rate. 

On domestic affairs, "Creating jobs and lowering the unemployment rate" is the issue that young people care about the most. This is understandable -- it's difficult to care about longer-term issues if you are unemployed and can't find a job. Plus, young people face a higher unemployment rate than the national average. As of March 2012, the unemployment rate for people between 16 and 19 years old is 25.0 percent, and the rate for people between 20 to 24 years is 13.2 percent. This is much higher than the rate for all workers, which is 8.2 percent.  

Quite interestingly, the economy beat out issues that millenials have a reputation for caring about. "Combating the impacts of climate change" was the issue that they care about the least. They cared less about "reducing the role of money in elections" and "becoming energy independent." Similarly surprising, as Charles Blow points out in the New York Times, student debt is not the single biggest priority of young people.  

Heading into the general election, Republicans should pay particular attention to the fact that the health of the economy is very important to young people. They should resist the urge to talk about social issues, since coming out against abortion, contraception, and gay rights will likely alienate the libertarians, independents, and young people that they need to reach. If Republicans bring up social issues, they are not likely to gain voters, but they could lose a lot of them.

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Christine Harbin

Christine Harbin considers widespread economic freedom to be one of the most important goals for sound public policy. She holds undergraduate degrees in economics, mathematics, and French from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.

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