4 Takeaways From Election 2016 About Millennials (Republicans, Listen Up)
I’ve read all the explanations of how and why Millennials voted the way we did in the recent presidential election. I’ve also spoken with my peers.
Here are four key things about my generation that our newly elected leaders would do well to consider.
1. Millennials Have Compassion
Even though many Millennials are struggling to find a job, they are still active in the causes they care about. As this article from The Washington Post pointed out in 2015, 84 percent of Millennials donated to a charity in 2014, and Millennials are also volunteering for their causes.
Millennials care about people who are mistreated, misunderstood and ignored — often minorities — and want to make the world a better place for them. This compassion is commendable, and this is where I believe Republicans have an opportunity to make inroads with Millennials. Show them how conservative principles reinforce true compassion and care for minority groups.
After all, Millennials are the largest living generation, dominating the workforce and likely to dominate the voting population in the near future. If Republicans want to harness that powerful potential, they need to start now.
2. Millennials Are Suspicious of the Establishment
Data from the Pew Research Center has shown that Millennials are less trusting of others than older generations and are also more detached from institutions than older generations. Seventy-four percent of Millennials “sometimes or never trust the federal government to do the right thing,” The Washington Post reported last year.
Additionally, Millennials place a lot of value in honesty and transparency. As a report from ORC International states, “transparency is vital to establishing trust and loyalty with millennials.” The report discussed the relationship between Millennials and their employers, but I think the same would hold true for Millennials and their president.
So how did that play out this election season? Fifty-five percent of voters age 18-29 voted for Clinton, while 37 percent voted for Trump, according to exit polls. In 2012, 60 percent of Millennials voted for President Obama, Bloomberg reported, adding that Millennial support of third party candidates jumped from 3 percent in 2012 to 8 percent this year.
Millennials rejected Trump as an overall demographic — unsurprising, given his inflammatory rhetoric. But they obviously weren’t huge Clinton fans, coming out instead for Bernie Sanders early on (he got 80 percent of their votes in the Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada primaries, The Atlantic reported).
Millennials’ low enthusiasm for Clinton (and high enthusiasm for Sanders) underscores Millennial distrust of the establishment and desire for transparency. It is not surprising to me that given the Clinton dynasty’s multiple scandals, repeated dishonesty, rigging of the Democratic primaries and recent FBI investigations, Millennials would reject Clinton or vote for her reluctantly. They saw Sanders as anti-establishment and honest, and placed their trust accordingly. While most Millennials did not favor Trump, some were drawn to him early on for similar reasons.
If Republicans want to gain Millennials’ trust, they should take note of this suspicion toward the establishment and foster an atmosphere of transparency and honesty.
3. Millennials Are (and Desire to be) Connected
For Millennials, camaraderie matters. They are inspired to support causes their peers support, and they want to feel a connection to those causes.
I’ve been encouraged to see my own Millennial friends advocate reaching across the aisle in love in the wake of the election. This is coming from Millennials who voted for Clinton, Trump, a third party or chose not to vote at all. They are seeing the pain, fear and divisiveness, and even those expressing deep disappointment over the results are promoting change through kindness and care, attempting to unify and find connection on matters that everyone can agree upon.
If Republicans in office want to be a part of this, they should publicly promote bipartisan cooperation where it makes sense. Not with faked or meaningless platitudes, but allowing the public to see authentic moments of united effort.
That being said, while many Millennials are calling for peace and unity, many are not.
4. Millennials Can Be Immature
Currently, thousands of Millennials across America are protesting the election of Trump. While I support the protesters’ First Amendment rights, many in my generation need to toughen up.
By toughen up, I don’t mean become calloused or lose compassion. But to be truly effective, Millennials must pair their compassion with mental toughness. This means acknowledging that the world is ugly. People will disagree and even make fun. People can be downright mean and offensive — even some political leaders.
If we want to challenge that ugliness, we have to look it in the eye. Not with tantrums, violence or rage. But with strength of conviction and the kindness we espouse, whether our opponents deserve it or not. That’s how you “go high.”
Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but what can I say — I’m a Millennial and research shows that we are.
What should Republican leaders do with this? Condemn violent acts, always, but address the underlying concerns. If people are protesting what they perceive to be hate, racism, sexism etc. from President-elect Trump, maybe he should attempt to reassure when possible. More of this:
Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016
Less of this:
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016
An Opportunity — For Both Millennials and Republicans
As I wrote previously, I believe Millennials have more potential for effecting change in this nation than anybody who sits in the Oval Office. Now that the presidential election is over, that belief is even stronger.
In the midst of an explosive election cycle and after a major disappointment for half of the country, I’ve seen my peers display compassion for others, reject establishment corruption and attempt to connect across racial, economic and political lines. I refuse to focus on the temper tantrums of some Millennials. Rather, I’m focusing on the positive qualities in my generation that I believe can change our culture.
I hope I’m not the only one choosing to focus on the good qualities in my generation and the potential there. I especially hope that our nation’s newly-elected leaders recognize that potential, and seek to work with Millennials for a stronger, more unified nation.