Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns were buoyed by higher-than-average youth voter participation - a trend that actually began more than a decade ago, in the 2004 presidential election. And this year, the number of eligible-voter Millennials roughly equals the electoral heft of the long-dominant Baby Boomers. Will that trend continue with the 2016 US Election? Will Millennials (and their Centennial counterparts aged 19 and under) stand up and be counted?
Kantar Futures has been looking at whether young people, unconstrained by the status quo and unswayed by conventional wisdom, could be open to Donald J. Trump’s iconoclastic message. In some respects, Millennials and Centennials seem almost gleeful about the prospect of speaking truth to power, goring sacred cows, and shaking up the establishment.
Does this mean we could be looking at an unexpected upset—a Trump victory among young voters?
No, probably not. When it comes to the kinds of social issues that inspire strong, gut-level emotional responses, Democrats and young people are in overwhelming agreement. Diversity and inclusion—staples of Democratic stump speeches—are guiding principles for the younger generations that will usher in a minority-majority future in the United States. And on social issue after social issue, young people look a lot like the Democratic Party’s base.
Millennials nonetheless will be responsible for weighty electoral decisions this year and for decades into the future. So what could future politicians do to attract Millennials and Centennials? Here are three keys to the White House from Kantar Futures:
• Get clear: Kantar Futures’ research shows the Millennial and Centennial cohorts don’t just wear their values on their sleeves they expect their brands (and, yes, politicians are brands) to do the same. Nearly 90% of voting-age young people say they appreciate it when brands make their values clear. That means a coherent, authentic message—one that won’t get you into trouble no matter who hears about it.
• Get pointed: Millennials and Centennials believe that old, established conventions and formalities have failed, and they’re ready to dispense with namby-pamby, focus-tested pabulum. The politics of playing nice hasn’t worked; they want their leaders to ditch the script. They’ll give politicians room to say controversial things (though policies are better punching bags than people). Most of all, they’re hungry for bold, gridlock-busting action, and they want to hear about consequences for the forces of inertia that stand in the way of progress. Donald Trump has capitalized on this desire.
• Get together: Clear, pointed messages are vital—but in the calculus of youth politics, addition still beats division. Nearly 75% of voting-age young people say that not judging others is important to them, and 92% say everyone should make a positive difference in the world. Over and over in our work, Kantar Futures finds a strong spirit of cooperation and camaraderie among young people—and it’s a spirit that informs their understanding of what’s possible.