Thursday, April 30, 2009

How the Millennials Are Shifting the American Opinion

It is well known that Americans under 30 are far more supportive of gay marriage, protecting the environment, and other liberal concerns than older Americans. But a new ABC News - Washington Post poll finds that such support has bigger implications than ever before.

The best example: For the first time in the history of this poll (and probably in most respected surveys) a plurality of Americans support gay marriage.

With Americans under 30 supporting it by a 2-to-1 margin, 49% of all respondents said they supported gay marriage, while only 46% said they were opposed. 48% of respondents between the ages of 30 and 64 supported expanding marriage, and just 28% of respondents older than 65 agreed.

But it’s not just the marriage issue in which the Millennials are making a difference.

Americans under 30 were one of the most supportive demographics of stricter regulations on greenhouse emissions. 80% of these young adults supported such tougher environmental policies, compared to 64% of seniors. As a result, 75% of all respondents supported regulating emissions.

Meanwhile, support for the decriminalization of marijuana is at an all time high. This is something that has been known for months, but now there is evidence that the shift towards legalizing pot is due (in part) to the Millennial generation.

According to the pollsters:

"Support for legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use is nearly twice as high among young adults (57 percent of those under 30) as seniors (30 percent), with middle-aged Americans split about evenly."

Finally, opinions on illegal immigration are rapidly changing, due (again in part) to the rise of the Millennials.

"In another difference by age, 85 percent of senior citizens say the U.S. isn’t doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from coming into the country; that eases to a still-substantial 65 percent of under 30s. And support for a path to citizenship for illegals is 31 points higher among under 30s than it is among seniors, 73 percent vs. 42 percent."

But how will it affect elections or policy?

Younger voters are notoriously bad about voting. Each election cycle pundits talk about the youth vote, only to see it improve mildly (if at all). As a result, such views as seen above are not as reflective of the voting population - and that makes an enormous difference.

But last year more than 23 million Americans under 30 cast their ballot in the Presidential contest. What was truly remarkable wasn’t that there was a 4% increase in youth turnout, but that this generation was so overwhelmingly supportive of Barack Obama.

As college student and DNC member Jason Rae told us in early January:

"Had the margin been smaller, like previous elections, many of the states that were decided by only the narrowest of margins would have gone the other way. Take for example places like Indiana or North Carolina. Drop the support of young voters from 66% to say, perhaps, only 60% and you would likely see an entirely different person taking the oath of office on January 20."
Therefore it is critical for campaigns to recognize the importance of young voters and the impact that the Millennial generation can make on the political scene. Convincing them to vote is difficult, but it can make a huge difference when they do.

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