Part of the oft-mocked Millennial generation received yet another award today from the New York Times: Most Underrated Voting Block of 2012. This group is comprised of over 40% of voters ages 18 to 29 – the Millennials – who do not have a college degree and are not currently in college. This group is 18 million people just waiting to be targeted by a campaign. The most important statistic about this section of the Millennials is their unemployment rate, which is more than double the unemployment rate of college-educated Millennials.
Mr. Romney and President Obama both need these voters on their respective teams. Many members of this group live in swing states and are thus even more valuable to the campaigns. With their sky-high unemployment rate and typically conservative fiscal views, getting the non-college Millennial vote should be a slam dunk for Mr. Romney because he has the advantage in economic policy. The Romney campaign has focused on a generic message of “hope” for this demographic, countered by the Obama campaign’s (only slightly more specific) focus on the job market’s future rebound.
Campaign rhetoric aside, the real problem is that this group feels neglected. One of the Millennials interviewed by the New York Times stated the following:
They’re all a bunch of rich people that I really don’t feel like care about me anyway.
This does not bode well for either campaign. So are non-college-educated Millennials a lost cause? A report cited in the article says no. The CIRCLE report suggests that youth (young adults, actually) are most likely to vote if they are “personally and explicitly asked” to do so. The study was validated by comments from a Millennial who did not earn a college degree. As cited by the New York Times article, she said, “I hear people say we have a problem with youth apathy. It’s not a matter of apathy, to me. It’s a matter of youth recognition that the options are not sufficient.” What these voters want to see are specific plans from the candidates regarding their high unemployment and under-employment rates. What these voters want to hear are invitations (guilt trips?) from the campaigns to go to the polls on Election Day.
Mr. Romney, President Obama, we are the Millennials. We are the generation of participation ribbons, gold stars, and As for effort. So throw us a bone here. Pay attention to us. We will reward you with a vote. And even if you lose, you still get points for trying, right?