Survey | Diverse, Disillusioned, and Divided: Millennial Values and Voter Engagement in the 2012 Election
Voter Registration and Engagement
Nearly two-thirds (66%) of younger Millennials (age 18-25) say they are currently registered to vote, compared to about 6-in-10 (61%) who reported being registered to vote in March 2012. White younger Millennials (71%) are significantly more likely to report being registered to vote than black younger Millennials (60%) or Hispanic younger Millennials (53%).
Between March and September, however, there was little change in younger Millennials’ self-reported probability of voting. Half (50%) of younger Millennials currently report that they are absolutely certain to vote in the 2012 presidential election, compared to 46% in March.
Younger Millennials whose parents took them to the voting booth on Election Day are much more likely to be registered to vote (84%) and are more likely to say they are absolutely certain that they will vote in the upcoming election (66%).
The 2012 Election and the Candidates
At this point in the campaign, Obama holds a 16-point lead over Romney among younger Millennial voters (55% vs. 39%). Obama’s lead among these voters has increased significantly since March, when he held a modest 7-point lead over Romney (48% vs. 41%).
- There are, however, substantial racial and ethnic divisions in voter preferences. Black younger Millennial voters overwhelmingly support Obama over Romney (97% vs. 2%), while Obama’s lead among younger Hispanic Millennial voters is also substantial (67% vs. 23%). By contrast, Romney has an 11-point advantage over Obama among white younger Millennial voters (52% vs. 41%).
- Romney has a commanding lead among white Christian younger Millennials. Eight-in-ten (80%) white evangelical Protestant younger Millennial voters support Romney, while just 15% support Obama. A slim majority (51%) of white mainline Protestant younger Millennial voters also prefer Romney, while 4-in-10 (40%) say they support Obama. Obama, however, has a significant advantage among Catholic younger Millennial voters overall (55% vs. 38%), minority Protestant younger Millennial voters (70% vs. 26%), and religiously unaffiliated younger Millennial voters (68% vs. 23%).
Obama supporters are nearly equally as likely to say they support him because he shares their views (17%) as they are to say that they support him because they do not like Romney (15%). By contrast, younger Millennial voters who support Romney are significantly more likely to say they support the GOP candidate because they dislike Obama (35%) than they are to report they support Romney because he shares their views (20%).
On a range of candidate traits related to empathy, trustworthiness, and leadership, Obama has a significant advantage over Romney. Of eight different traits, Romney outperforms Obama on only one: having strong religious beliefs.
Presidential Candidates and Religion
Nearly half (49%) of younger Millennials say it is somewhat or very important for a candidate to have strong religious beliefs, while 48% say it is not too important or not at all important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs.
- Seven-in-ten (70%) younger Millennial Republicans agree that it is important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs.
- By contrast, a majority of younger Millennial Democrats (54%) and younger Millennial Independents (54%) say it is not too or not at all important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs.
- A majority of black (68%) and Hispanic (57%) Millennials agree that it is important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs, compared to only 44% of white Millennials. A majority (53%) of white Millennials believe that it is not important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs.
Less than half of younger Millennials say they would be comfortable with a Mormon (44%), atheist (43%), or Muslim (30%) President.
- There is a strong correlation between younger Millennials’ level of comfort with a Mormon president and their support for Romney. Younger Millennial voters who say a Mormon president would make them uncomfortable are strongly supporting Obama over Romney (68% vs. 23%) while those who say they would be comfortable favor Romney (55% vs. 41%).
Disillusionment with Government
Overall, younger Millennials exhibit a high degree of pessimism about the democratic process and the government.
- More than 6-in-10 (63%) younger Millennials agree that “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does,” while more than 8-in-10 (82%) believe that business corporations have too much influence on the political process.
- Most (61%) younger Millennials reject the idea that “the government is really run for the benefit of all the people,” and younger Millennials are six times more likely to say they think about government as “the” government (86%) rather than “our” government (12%).
- This significant disillusionment with the government and the political process cuts across political affiliation, race, religious affiliation, and gender.
Despite the pessimism on a range of issues above, more than two-thirds (68%) of younger Millennials nonetheless say that “voting gives people like me some say about how government runs things.”
- There is a strong connection between likelihood of voting among younger Millennials and views about the efficacy of voting.
- Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) younger Millennials who say they are certain to vote in the presidential election agree that voting gives people like them some say about how the government runs things, compared to 41% of younger Millennials who say they are not likely to vote.
Nearly half (47%) of younger Millennials oppose programs that make special efforts to help blacks and other minorities to get ahead because of past discrimination, while around 4-in-10 (38%) favor these programs.
- Less than 1-in-5 (19%) white younger Millennials favor programs designed to help blacks and other minorities get ahead because of past discrimination, while nearly two-thirds (66%) are opposed.
- By contrast, three-quarters (75%) of black younger Millennials and more six-in-ten (63%) Hispanic younger Millennials favor such programs.
Support for affirmative action programs diminishes considerably when younger Millennials are asked specifically about affirmative action for college admissions.
- Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) younger Millennials believe that blacks and other minorities should not receive preference in college admissions to make up for past inequalities, while around 1-in-5 (19%) younger Millennials favor such programs.
- Black and Hispanic younger Millennials are divided on whether there should be affirmative action in college admissions, but white younger Millennials are strongly opposed.
Relatively few (15%) younger Millennials report that they were hurt in the college admissions process because of their race or gender, while about 1-in-10 (8%) say they were helped by these policies. Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) younger Millennials say their race or gender did not affect them.
Most younger Millennials do not believe their race or gender will have an effect on their future career prospects.
- More than 6-in-10 (63%) younger Millennials believe that their gender or race will make no difference in their career, while 12% think it will help them, and 18% think it will hurt them.
- Majorities of white (67%), black (54%), and Hispanic (57%) younger Millennials say that their race or gender will make no difference in their career prospects.
Homepage photo courtesy of KOMUNews via Flickr.