Time Magazine Piles onto the Millennial Phenomenon with a Cover Story

One thing about the mainstream media, when they finally detect a trend, they go nuts with it. And the trend of this political season is the political engagement of the young Millennial Generation.

Time magazine coronates the trend with a cover piece that comes out this weekend on “Why Young Voters Care Again, and Why their Vote Matters.” The package pulls together all the pieces that have been emerging in primary contests of the last month and does a good job making the case about the power of the youth vote in this election. They also weave in the story of how the new tools are empowering this generation and increasing their clout. In doing so, they are a virtual infomercial for Obama, laying out how successfully his campaign has been in utilizing these tools and harnessing these voters.

time cover

For those who are familiar with our work at the New Politics Institute, we have long been championing both phenomena, and you can find more insights into both trends at our website. It really is gratifying to see how powerfully these new elements of the new politics are playing out in actuality in this election cycle. Who would have thought?

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Independents and Millennials Poised to Shake-up the California Primary towards Obama

Though Clinton still leads in the polls for the Feb. 5th California primary, Obama has two stealth forces that are poised to close that gap and potentially beat her: Independents and the young Millennial generation. Two recent articles in the San Francisco Chronicle help spell out how that might work.

1) Independents: California has huge numbers of independents who can ONLY vote in the Democratic primary. The Republican primary is closed to only registered Republicans. So even Independents who might want to vote for McCain only have the option to vote Democrat, and the candidate who clearly does best among independents is Obama.

The numbers are striking, as laid out by Mark Baldassare, the head of the respected Public Policy Institute of California, which does many state-wide surveys and polls:

“Since the 2000 presidential election, the number of major party voters has fallen by 800,000, while the "decline to state" (or independent) rolls have grown by 700,000 voters. Although Democrats still outnumber Republicans by nine percentage points (43 percent to 34 percent), independents, who account for 1 in 5 voters in California, have injected a new level of uncertainty into the state's partisan contests.”

2) Millennials: Large numbers of young people are now registered to vote in California and because they are new to the game, they are less clearly understood. Our New Politics Institute has done much work on this generation and it seems clear that they are more energized by an Obama candidacy at this point. So a critical issue going into he Feb. 5th contest will be the youth turnout, and the margin that goes for Obama. Again, today’s Chronicle has some striking numbers from the Public Policy Institute of California:

“Analysts and politicians have long lamented the low voter turnout among the 18- to 30-year-old set, which has fluctuated over the past three decades but never surpassed the 52 percent recorded in 1972, the first year 18-year-olds could cast ballots.

But this year, young voters and those who study them say things appear to be changing. In California, 63 percent of 25- to 34-year-old residents and 57 percent of 18- to 24-year-old residents are registered to vote, according to surveys conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.”

The outcome of California is going to have a big bearing on the national race and so these two developments take on new importance in the next couple weeks. Simon lays the importance of California in a terrific post that you can continue to read here.

Hang tight.

Peter Leyden
Director of The New Politics Institute

The campaigns go national, onward to Nevada and South Carolina

After snowy Iowa and New Hampshire the Presidential campaign has gone national, adding states like Florida, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina and then the unprecedented Super primary on February 5th.

On the Democratic side we are seeing the first year of a new nominating calendar which was designed to involve two regions - the South and the West - and two groups - African-Americans and Hispanic - to the traditional Iowa and New Hampshire Midwest, Northeast and largely white mix.

The idea of broadening this primary calendar to include these 2 new regions and 2 important communities was something I championed in my race for DNC Chair in 2005. Of all the candidates running I was the only one who was willing to challenge the old system, a system that only once had produced a Democratic candidate who received more than 50 percent of the vote in the general election (Carter 1976), and which was simply not representative of the nation America had become. I was very pleased when the DNC adopted a plan very similar to mine in the spring of 2005, which choose Nevada and South Carolina as the representatives states of these regions.

Embracing these regions and voters is particularly important to Democrats, the much more diverse party of the two political parties. In 2008 minority voters will make up perhaps 25% of all those who vote, and may be as much as 40% of those who vote Democratic in 2008. While it may be another 40 years before the nation becomes majority "minority," the Democratic Party is likely to become a majority minority Party within the next ten years or so as the African-American, Hispanic and Asian populations grow in the US and remain largely Democratic. Given the way the Electoral College has played out in recent elections, the Democrat's new emphasis on Hispanics and the heavily Hispanic states of AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV could alone swing the Presidential race to the Democrats in 2008 (see our recent magazine article "The 50 Year Strategy" for more on this).

As I wrote the other day helping our people embrace this new much more diverse America of the 21st century - and other emerging demographic realities like the rise of Millennials and the movement of the population to the South and West - is one of the modern progressive movements most urgent strategic challenges. By adopting this new map, by the historic diversity of the Presidential field, by the emergence of a Western-based Congressional leadership and the placement of their convention in Denver this year, it is clear that the Democrats are increasingly becoming a party built around the emerging demographic realities of 21st century America.

Vist here for a new NDN Backgrounder on Nevada, Immigration and Hispanics, here for an excellent Dan Balz overview of the upcoming Super Duper Tuesday in the Washington Post today and see below from on the ground reports from NDN staffers Joe Garcia and Travis Valentine from Nevada. This more national orientation should be on full display tonight in the Democratic debate from Las Vegas.


The Millennial Youth Vote Takes Center Stage

Literally. In Clinton’s victory speech last night, young Millennials filled the stage behind her. This was in striking contrast to her Iowa speech, in which she shared the stage with a crowd of older people from the 1990s, including Madeleine Albright right next to her.

Both Clinton and Obama are aggressively courting Millennials, both for their votes, and for their energized involvement in their campaigns. Millennials are not just voters, but actors. And actors who deeply understand the powerful new tools of politics on the Internet.

The early numbers out of new Hampshire show how clearing the youth vote is trending towards Democrats and becoming crucial to the two campaigns of the leaders. Here are some numbers from CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement:

Initial New Hampshire Youth Vote Numbers:

* The youth turnout rate rose to 37% in 2008 compared to 18% in 2004 and 28% in 2000.

* 61% of young voters ages 18-29 in New Hampshire chose Democrats over Republicans (raw numbers are Democrats 43,753, Republicans 28,288).

* Young people choosing Democrats over Republicans continues the trend we saw in Iowa where 52,580 caucused with Democrats and only 12,650 turned out for Republicans.

Among Democrats, 18-29 year olds outperformed older voters (CNN exit polling):

* 18-29 year old voters made up 18% of the New Hampshire Democratic primary.
* 30-39 year olds made up 15%.
* 65 and older voters made up 13%.

Young people were split between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (CNN exit polling):

* 18-24 year olds supported Barack Obama (61%) over Hillary Clinton (22%);
* 25-29 year olds supported Hillary Clinton (37%) over Barack Obama (34%);

This is all consistent with what we have been hammering at the New Politics Institute over the last couple years. For more info about what we have been putting out and saying, see a previous blog post explaining four of our key reports.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute


Millennials Behind the Obama Surge

If people still need evidence of the political impact of the young Millennial Generation on politics, look closely at the detailed results now coming out of Iowa. You could argue that Obama owes the thrust of his surge to the energized vote of Millennials.

Here are some initial statistics for youth (ages 18-29) turnout in Iowa, which come courtesy of the Young Voter PAC, and based on numbers coming out of CIRCLE, the Center for Information & research on Civic Learning & Engagement:

  • Young people made up 22% of the Democratic caucus goers, up from 17% in 2004. Young Democrats outnumbered young Republicans 4 to 1.
  • A total of 65,230 young people were caucus-goers in 2008. 52,580 caucused with Democrats and only 12,650 turned out for Republicans. That means of the young people that turned out, 80% were for Democrats.
  • The youth turnout rate tripled in Iowa. The youth turnout rate rose to 13% in 2008 compared to 4% in 2004 and 3% in 2000.
  • Out of all of Barack Obama’s support in Iowa, 57% came from young voters (CNN, MSNBC, FOX).
  • 60% of the caucus participants were first time caucus goers and of those 39% of them went for Obama.

The stats are even more remarkable because students are still on holidays in all the colleges around the state. And Iowa itself is demographically much older than many other states.

The New Politics Institute and NDN have been heralding this generation shift for the last couple years and teasing out the argument in various bits of information that would appear. The evidence has shown that this generation of young people, aged 29-11, are very engaged in politics, unusually civic-minded, hold progressive values and are voting for Democrats in high numbers. (Simon posted earlier on the various reports we have done on this subject.)

The Obama campaign recognizes this, and Obama himself has tapped into the energized idealism and optimism that this generation holds. Watch as this Millennial momentum just keeps growing through the primary season and onto the general election. This is a shift that will have a long tail of impact for many years to come. Political people who recognize it, and tap into it, will thrive. If you ignore it, like the Clinton campaign seemed to do, and you will get hurt.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

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