Millennials. In recent years, the term for those born in the 80s and 90s has exploded with coverage of the idea that these “naive” self-involved, tree-hugging activists will someday rule the electorate. What the media has missed, though, is how millennials identify. (Hint. It isn’t white.)
The power of millennials is vast and expanding; the political realm is constantly trying to lock down the youth vote, with little real grasp on their motivations. These young people could be the key to any political campaign, and with the 2016 election season in full swing, a candidate’s ability to capture the hearts – and votes- of millennials could be a ticket to the White House.
One real difference between the makeup of the millennial generation and those before them is its diversity. Millennials are multicultural and multi-racial, blurring the lines of gender rules and demographic criteria. Hispanics, increasing in numbers across all age demographics, account for almost half (44%) of millennial eligible voters (Pew Research Center), leaving whites with only 25 percent of the new electorate. This could be crucial in the 2016 showdown for president, as two key states, including our home state of Florida, have huuuuge (Trump voice) Hispanic populations.
Florida is an interesting case. With 18.1 percent of all Floridians identified as Hispanic, our needs are unique, particularly compared to places like Iowa and New Hampshire, arguably some of the ‘whitest’ places in the entire country. Interestingly enough, the density of the Hispanic population in Florida is not as significant as certain areas of the state, such as Miami Dade County. As of the 2010 census, over 65 percent of the county’s population is Latino, made up primarily of Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians, and Hondurans. Despite such a potentially powerful demographic, Miami Dade still secured the spot as Florida’s lowest voter turnout rate in the 2014 midterms (less than half of voters actually showed up).
The Hispanic voter may be difficult to reach; the millennial Hispanic voter is nearly impossible. The generation consumed with making a difference actually has a 20 percent lower voter turnout rate than the rest of the country. Why? Turns out that millennials actually think they are too busy to vote. According to the Miami-based Knight Foundation, millennials are less likely to vote, particularly in local elections, because of their distrust of our government. Millennials don’t believe their involvement will have any results. Combined with their lack of interest, millennials will not reach the polls without some help.
But how do these political powerhouses identify with the millennials enough to make them to vote? Many “experts” assume millennials = technology, and in an effort to relate to those who cannot rip their fingers away from a screen, political junkies have created apps, like Poltifiact and Dollarcracy. These platforms could ideally engage more millennials, but realistically, only reaches those would already care. The average person only has so much time to go through their social media feeds, you think millennials want to read a snooze-fest? While those who are passionate about policy would love a non-traditional medium to explore politics; most young people still prefer television as their news source. If using social media, tools that already exist – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, are low-cost ways to build traction in any campaign.
More than how to reach millennials, the message candidates send to these voters makes the difference. This generation is one of idealism, equality, and love. By identifying with their issues, like gay marriage, education, and climate change, winning the hearts of millennials is a breeze. It may seem impossible for the bigwigs of Washington to relate to the young vote, particularly the young Hispanic vote. The importance for millennials is to feel that a candidate actually cares about them, their families, and their futures. It can be done. It is clear that 2016 will show the exact importance of the hearts of millennials, and whoever can secure their votes, could secure the White House.
- Sofia Herrero