Election Issues

The Millennial Effect

Millions of votes are up for grabs among the country's youngest subset of voters.

By Andrew Soergel | September 6, 2016 | SOURCE: USNews

Young voter turnout has historically been difficult to count on. But after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders connected with the country's youngest voting demographic to help propel his unexpectedly successful primary campaign, it's tough to overlook the youth vote.

Millennials, or the demographic between the ages of 18 and 35, are often discussed as if they're a separate species, with their own unique values, wants and needs that politicians can either cater to or overlook entirely. And typically, the latter strategy hasn't been a terrible one, considering only 38 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 years old and 49.5 percent of those between the ages of 25 and 44 years old turned out to vote in 2012, according to the Census Bureau.

That's compared to 63.4 percent of those between 45 and 64 and 69.7 percent of those at least 65 years old who cast their vote that year. Pandering to older voters has been an effective strategy for many campaigns over the years.

But it would be a mistake to overlook the millennial vote entirely, says David Cahn, co-author of "When Millennials Rule: The Reshaping of America," Huffington Post contributor, University of Pennsylvania undergraduate and card-carrying millennial himself. He and his twin brother Jack spent two years traveling the country, talking with millennials and researching their book which breaks down young people's political perspectives and determines what makes this demographic tick.

"I think the story of this election will be the story of voter turnout among millennials," he says. "I think if they turn out and vote for [Democratic nominee Hillary] Clinton, she wins. If they don't, she loses."

But Clinton can't count on the youth vote just because millennials rallied around Sanders in the primaries. Although millennials are often painted as "hippy liberals," Cahn says they have bucked the stereotypes of both parties and largely represent an "unclaimed" generation of voters.

Read the full Daivid Cahn interview here.