The following blog first appeared on LinkedIn
The 2016 Millennial Impact Report investigates how millennials’ cause engagement behaviors may change during an election year, and how these changes may be influenced by important demographics such as their political party affiliation and/or their political ideologies, geographical location, age and race/ethnicity or by the emerging candidates for election. This study also examines millennials’ interest and activation in specific causes that may be differentiated by their support of a particular political party.
2016 marks the first presidential election in which millennials (born 1980-2000) make up the same amount of the U.S. voting-age population as Baby Boomers.
The changing landscape in the U.S. brought on by a presidential election year coupled with millennials’ unprecedented share of the vote drove Achieve, the research team behind The Millennial Impact Project, to seek how – or if – this generation’s philanthropic interests and involvement change with it, including how these changes may be influenced by important demographics such as their political ideologies, gender, age and more.
So while we know from years of research through The Millennial Impact Project that millennials value cause work (any activities that are philanthropic in nature) and are engaged with causes, it is unclear whether and/or how this engagement is affected by the support or opposition of social issues and affiliated causes by presidential hopefuls.
To better understand the political preferences of millennial respondents in our sample, we asked respondents about voting, political ideologies and candidate preference.
Within the survey, we asked respondents to indicate where their political beliefs reside on a sliding scale that ranged from 0 (very liberal) to 100 (very conservative). A rating of 50 indicated the respondent identified politically as neutral.
Wave 1 (March to May; n= 350 each month and n= 1,050 total for the wave) of the 2016 Millennial Impact Report showed half of respondents (50%) identified as conservative (i.e., a response of >50), compared to 43 percent liberal (a response of <50) and 7 percent neutral (a response of 50), meaning that thus far into the study,millennial respondents identify as more conservative-leaning than liberal.
To be clear, however, this is not necessarily indicative of political party affiliation. A respondent who indicated her beliefs as conservative does not necessarily mean she will choose to vote Republican, just as a liberal ideology does not necessarily point to a Democratic or Independent affiliation.
Political Ideology by Gender & Age
By gender, female millennial respondents identify much more as liberal than male millennials do. Wave 1 results indicate nearly half (48%) of female millennial respondents identify as liberal, compared to only 38 percent of male millennials. Conversely, over half (56%) of males identify as conservatives, versus 44 percent of females.
By age, older millennial respondents indicated they are more conservative than younger millennials. Half (50%) of millennials aged 18-24 identified as liberal, compared to 43 percent of millennials aged 25-30 and 38 percent of millennials in the 31-36 age group.
Within Wave 1, 81 percent responded that they are planning to vote in the presidential election. This trend altered slightly month to month, however, as the number of respondents planning to vote in the presidential election increased from March to April (81% to 86%, respectively) but decreased in May (76%).
Interestingly, the percentage of respondents not planning to vote at all increased to 13 percent in May (versus 9% and 7% in March and April, respectively). As a reminder, Cruz and Kasich exited the race immediately before the May survey was deployed – though we cannot say for sure whether this had an impact on respondents’ plans to vote or not.
Voting by Gender & Age
Nearly all (84%) of male millennial respondents are planning to vote in the presidential election, compared to 79 percent of females. This trend is slightly different from other sources’ accounts of previous presidential election cycles, such as data from the Center for American Women in Politics which found that more women aged 18-44 voted in 2012, 2008, 2004 and 2000 than men.
By age, nearly all millennials in the 25-30 and 31-36 age groups are planning to vote in the presidential election (82% and 88%, respectively) versus millennials aged 18-24 (70%). Additionally, many more millennials in the youngest age group, 18-24, are unsure whether they will vote in the presidential election (15%) than millennials in the two older age groups. This trend follows U.S. Census data in that more people in older age groups are registered and planning to vote than younger ones. Of the millennials in the youngest age group (18-24), fewer than half of respondents have participated in a presidential election before 2016, and some members of this group have not participated in any elections. The newness of the process to this age group could indicate they have not yet or do not know how to go through the voter registration process and/or do not yet understand the impact of their vote.
Voting by Political Ideology
By political ideology, more conservative-leaning respondents report that they are planning to vote than liberals. Eighty-four percent of conservative respondents reported they are planning to vote in the presidential election, versus 81 percent of liberals – a trend in line with Pew research indicating that conservatives are more likely to vote than liberals.
Aggregate results from Wave 1 of the 2016 Millennial Impact Report found that, should they cast their vote for the U.S. president on the day they took the survey, the most millennial respondents would vote for Hillary Clinton (31%), followed by Bernie Sanders (27%). Sixteen percent of respondents indicated they would vote for Donald Trump.
From March to May, support (that is, that a respondent would vote for the candidate) of Clinton and Trump increased by millennial respondents, while support of Sanders decreased. Support of Clinton increased 11 percent from March to May, and support of Trump increased from 13 percent in March to 20 percent in May. Sanders supporters decreased slightly over the time period, however, from 28 percent in March to 25 percent in May – which could have been an early indication of the solidification of Clinton as the presumptive Democratic candidate.
The number of respondents who indicated they would either not vote for any of the candidates presented in the survey or would not vote at all both increased over this time period. Respondents not planning to vote for the candidates listed increased from 5 percent in March to 10 percent in May; respondents not planning to vote at all increased from 5 percent in March to 9 percent in May.
Through November, Achieve is surveying a unique sample of 350 millennials on a monthly basis to continue tracking their perceptions and behaviors related to cause engagement and politics as Election Day draws nearer. Following all quantitative surveys, Achieve will work to validate findings with qualitative interviews.
The trends that emerged in Wave 1 related to millennials’ political preferences specifically give rise to a number of thoughts and questions, such as: How do millennials define conservative and liberal, and with what values (e.g., fiscally, socially, etc.) of each of these ideologies do they most align, and will these ideologies change as the election season advances? Why do more conservative-leaning millennials report that they are planning to vote than liberal-leaning millennials? How will percentages of respondents who are registered to vote translate into percentages of millennials who actually do vote? Will millennials align with specific candidates as the election season advances, or will increasingly higher percentages of respondents decide not to vote for either final candidate?
Keep up with Achieve’s study on millennials and their engagement with causes and politics during a presidential election year throughout 2016 at themillennialimpact.com, and look for the full results and findings of the study after Election Day.
Visit themillennialimpact.com to download the 2016 Millennial Impact Wave 1 Trends Report.