Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who Are the Millennials? (Part 2)

Summary: The youngest generation of Americans is the most technologically savvy. Knowing how they communicate and obtain information is paramount to engaging them politically.

Yesterday we examined a new Pew Research Center study on the Millennial Generation to find out how they were different from older generation in terms of politics and values. While we found that there were some striking differences, they pale in comparison to the differences in terms of technology use.

From the study:

Technological change and generational change often go hand in hand. That’s certainly the story of the Millennials and their embrace of all things digital. The internet and mobile phones have been broadly adopted in America in the past 15 years, and Millennials have been leading technology enthusiasts. For them, these innovations provide more than a bottomless source of information and entertainment, and more than a new ecosystem for their social lives. They also are a badge of generational identity. Many Millennials say their use of modern technology is what distinguishes them from other generations.

WAYLA often examines trends in New Media and their impact on the political scene. But what’s interesting is that the older generations - who are more likely to vote - are typically not the most likely to use these media.

Millennials dominate in terms New Media and cell phone technology. Three out of every four Millennials use online social networking, compared with just half of Gen Xers, and less than a third of Baby Boomers.

Almost nine out of ten Millennials use their phones to text, and do so about 20 times per day. 83% of them sleep next to their cell phones, compared to 68% of Gen Xers and 50% of Baby Boomers.

They also appreciate technological advancements and innovation more than the average American. While almost a third of Baby Boomers believe these new technologies have made life more complicated, a staggering 74% of Millennials say they’ve made life easier.

One reason Millennials like these new technologies, no doubt, is because they’ve made it easier and more affordable to follow the news - especially the selective news they are interested in. They’re considerably less likely than their parents or grandparents to get news from television or newspapers, and more likely to find it on the internet.

In fact, “kids these days” are considerably less likely to watch television in general than any other age group.

None of these trends are necessarily surprising though, so why do we bring them up?

Knowing your audience is always important. Thus communicating via social networking services and texting will require different messages than traditional media.

Now, one of the most important rules in politics is maintaining a consistent message. But what areas of the message you focus on will differ depending on what media you use.

Understanding that Millennials - who have different perspectives and values than older generations - are more likely to use these new media sources means that tailoring your message over these media should reflect more on their concerns.

For example, Republicans should steer clear of stressing so-called “traditional family values” on Twitter and Facebook. Democrats should feel more free to promote issues in terms of equality and less compelled to defend the role of government in the economy. And while it would never hurt to do so, neither Republicans nor Democrats really need to hype veterans’ issues.

Tomorrow we’ll visit the topic of the Millennials one last time to wrap-up some key thoughts on the generational shift we’re seeing and its impact on politics.

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