Hope For Change: Why The Millennial Vote Will Likely Shift In 2016

By Alex Smith

Nearly two million young adults are preparing to don their gowns and mortarboards, walk across the graduation stage and collect their diplomas.

For far too many, it will be a time of uncertainty rather than celebration. It will be a time of worry instead of relief.

This graduating class, like several before it, is entering an economy that can't create enough well-paying jobs for all of them.

Some graduates will be left unemployed, and many will be stuck underemployed. Most will be left with a student loan debt burden they'll be paying off for years, a consequence of stagnant wages and soaring tuition.

Sadly, many economists tell us this piddling, post-recession economy is the “new normal.”

It's one in which the labor participation rates hover near historic lows, middle income occupations continue to wither, and economic growth putters along around 2 percent.

As President Obama's time in the White House, like college students' time on campus, winds down, this “new normal” is the legacy he is leaving behind.

It should come as little surprise then that a new poll by Harvard University's Institute of Politics shows the president's grip on young voters is quickly loosening, a fact that could loom over next year's elections.

The poll shows Millennial voters, aged 18 to 29, are not nearly as enamored with the Democratic Party as they were when Barack Obama was first on the ticket. By a 55 to 40 percent margin, young adults say they prefer a Democrat to win presidential race.

That figure is down sharply from the 66 percent of young voters who supported Obama against John McCain in 2008 and the 60 percent support the age group gave Obama against Mitt Romney.

Instead, it seems to parallel the 54-45 margin young adults gave John Kerry in 2004 over the eventual Republican President, George W. Bush.

“The margin at the moment looks much more like the 2004 race than the Obama campaigns,” said John Della Volpe, the Institute's polling director. “If Republicans can hold the Democrat nominee to less than 60 percent of the young vote nationally, there chances are dramatically improved for a Republican Electoral College win, in my opinion..”

Tellingly, the younger subgroup of Millennials, those 18 to 24 years old who came of age during the Obama presidency, are even less likely to vote for a Democrat for president. Among that group, only a slight majority — 53 percent — prefer a Democrat candidate.

None of this is to suggest Republicans should be happy losing Millennials by 15 points. In fact, we shouldn't cede the age group at all.

The poll also shows just 21 percent of young adults describe themselves as “politically engaged,” meaning the vast majority of young adults have yet to truly tune into the race.

This result is due in no small part to the disillusionment of government institutions, which manifested during Obama's tenure.

He came into the White House, carried by the votes of young adults, promising to change the way business was done.

Instead, he's become beholden to the same base political pressures as candidates before him. Along the way, he's clearly taken youth support for granted.

He asked Millennials to show up and vote in election years, but he subsequently did nothing to promote their priorities once he was safely in office.

Republicans aren't making the same mistake. Since gaining a majority in the Senate in 2014, they've taken dramatic steps to get the institution working again.

They've fostered debate in committee, allowed amendment votes and passed bipartisan legislation.

Republicans in both chambers are offering up innovative, forward-thinking ideas to reduce college costs, reform the criminal justice system, make healthcare insurance more affordable and, most notably, get the economy humming again by empowering entrepreneurs and fostering organic growth.

Graduation season is a time for reflection, an occasion to look back at the transformative journey you've just taken and prepare yourself for whatever comes next.

As his term comes to a close, it's not hard to imagine President Obama doing much of the same, perhaps even wondering where it all went wrong.

Fortunately, Republicans are there, focused on the future, working hard to ensure what comes next is the best yet.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Elite Daily.

Citations: Harvard Youth Poll Spring 2015 (Harvard IOP)