Millennials are an unpredictable voting bloc. Young voters could have an outsized influence on a number of important races in the upcoming midterm elections, but experts are split on whether this will be a watershed year for millennial turnout. Today is National Voter Registration Day, when civic groups hope to inspire millennials and other targeted groups to register to cast their ballots. USC experts weigh in on whether young voters will turn out and make a difference in November.
Is apathy the problem?
“Young people vote in very low numbers in the U.S. It’s not because they’re apathetic, or they just don’t care. They care very much. Our civic and electoral structures are designed in a way that discourages young people from voting, leaving them with a smaller voice in the political process.
“What I think we are starting to see here in California, which is really exciting, is a number of election reforms that in some way support young people or at least young people are a part of the targeting around that electoral reform to try to open up access.”
Predicting a millennial tide
“Millennials have the capacity to determine the future of the country. For the first time more millennials could vote than seniors. But they have to register and they have to vote, and they will live in this world longer than the rest of us. I sense that, here on campus, college students are more engaged than they’ve ever been, more interested in politics and readier to participate.
“I think you are seeing high levels of interest in this election from young people; but of course interest isn’t enough, they have to cast a ballot. A lot of people say, perhaps cynically, that young people just won’t vote in the numbers they could. I don’t agree with that. I think this year will be a watershed year; I think we will see a millennial tide in the midterm elections.”
Robert Shrum is director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and is the Carmen H. and Louis Warschaw Chair in Practical Politics Professor of the Practice of Political Science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. He co-leads the new USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future.
Bad news may suppress millennial vote
“In a Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of 5,044 adults conducted this summer, voters under the age of 35 were the least likely to feel positive emotions such as satisfied, hopeful, or pleased about news emanating from Washington, D.C. They were also the most likely to report negative feelings.
“Young millennial voters are not alone in experiencing negative feelings about the news; very few voters of any age in our poll reported feeing positive emotions. However, unlike older voters who reported that these feelings are translating into an increased motivation to go to the polls in November, most young millennials said the news is either having no effect or making them feel less motivated to vote.”
Jill Darling is survey director at the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Millennials could be potent force for Democrats
“Overall, members of the millennial generation disapprove of President Trump by a ratio of more than 2:1. This antipathy is reflected in the partisan differences when it comes to their intention to vote in this year’s midterm elections: 69 percent of millennials who intend to vote for a Democratic Congressional candidate this year told Pew Research that it really matters who controls Congress; only 44 percent of millennials who plan on voting for a Republican candidate for Congress thought the outcome of the midterms was important.
“The generation’s activism exceeds that of older generations when it comes to participating in rallies, protests or campaign events. Here again, Democratic millennials are twice as likely to have done so (26 percent) than their Republican counterparts (12 perecent). All of this suggests millennials could be a potent force in tipping the balance of power in Congress back to the Democrats in 2018.”
Morley Winograd is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. He is co-author of three books on the millennial generation.