Millennials, one of six living generations today, are the largest generational cohort in American history. Typically characterized as those born between 1980 and 1997, millennials reached an important milestone by the end of 2015: for the first time, all 80 million were of voting age. By every measure they stand to have an enormous impact on the nation.
The millennial generation is distinct from the others for several reasons: Those born before 1990 came of age in an economy that seemed to have no limits while those born later came of age during the worst economic crisis the nation has seen since the Great Depression. However, all millennials came of age in an America in which racial and gender equality are the norms and where technological advancements have fundamentally altered the ways in which we live, work and interact with the world around us.
The authors note that even before reaching full generational strength, millennials had transformed the body politic, serving as the driving force behind seismic shifts in public opinion on issues such as gay marriage and marijuana policy. They anchored the new coalition of Virginia voters that helped usher Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 — the first time the Commonwealth had chosen a Democrat for president since 1964. They remained instrumental in keeping Virginia blue for Obama’s reelection in 2012.
The authors examine what to expect of Virginia millennials in the 2016 presidential election and pose the following questions: Are millennials as truly apathetic as commonly portrayed, or will they show up to vote again in 2016 as they did in 2008 and 2012? What does Virginia’s millennial electorate look like in terms of partisanship and candidate preference? Drawing on data from two Wason Center for Public Policy studies of Virginia millennials conducted in 2014 and 2015, the authors discuss economic and financial concerns millennials bring to the 2016 ballot box, as well as their political behavior in the 2012 presidential election and voting behavior during the 2016 presidential primaries.