The Institute of Politics Talks Millenials in the 2012 Election Cycle at the DNC

September 6, 2012
By Esten Perez, Institute of Politics

Youth vote advocates, media and public opinion experts gathered in Charlotte, NC to discuss the engagement and importance of younger voters in the 2012 election cycle at the Institute of Politics panel discussion prior to the Democratic National Convention’s opening night.

IOP pollster John Della Volpe kicked off the Sept. 4 event underscoring that turnout by Millennials, 18 to 29-year-olds, was “incredibly important” to Barack Obama securing a presidential victory in 2008, particularly in battleground states like Virginia, Indiana and the 2012 Democratic National Convention host state of North Carolina.

However, Della Volpe also presented a summary of IOP spring 2012 polling data showing the ideological tide may be turning among this critical demographic group, revealing younger Millennials today – the group eligible to vote in their first Presidential election this fall – are significantly more conservative in their political ideology than older Millennials.

Among 18 to 19-year-olds, 42 percent self-identify as “conservative” with only 34 percent identifying as “liberal.” At the other end of the Millennial age spectrum, those self-identifying as liberal outnumber those calling themselves conservative particularly among the 25 to 27-year-olds with 36 percent saying they are “liberal” and 32 percent “conservative.” Among 28 to 29-year-olds 38 percent are “liberal” and 32 percent “conservative.”

Moreover, Della Volpe showed Obama’s margin over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gets weaker among younger Millennials. While Obama’s advantage over Romney is 16 percentage points among all 18 to 29-year-olds, his margin over Romney is twice as large among 25 to 29-year-olds, 23 percent, than seen among younger Millennials, 18 to 24-year-olds, 12 percent. Della Volpe asserted a key driver behind the numbers is younger Millennials coming of age within a political environment marked by an uncertain and struggling economy.

A panel discussion following Della Volpe’s presentation focused on younger voters being increasingly “turned off” by today’s politics – possibly leading to lower turnout among Millennials in 2012. The panel featured Della Volpe along with MTV News Correspondent Andrew Jencks, Campus Progress Director Anne Johnson, Rock the Vote President Heather Smith and panel moderator and IOP Director Trey Grayson.

Jenks discussed his experiences as an MTV News Correspondent travelling in battleground states around Super Tuesday and talking with Millennials who still “don’t feel a part of the political process and don’t know how to engage.” During Smith’s work in the younger voter advocacy world for the past 15 years, she agreed that young people feel disconnected from politics these days, but stressed, “We can’t give up. We have to work harder. If we do the hard work, I believe they will show up in November.”

Grayson underscored one of Della Volpe’s key themes that millions of younger voters would be very interested in participating in the political process; they just need to be targeted, engaged and to be asked. “Our data shows that if you have a more receptive audience you can reach them more effectively,” said Greyson.

The Institute produced a series of onsite events at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as part of its Election 2012 programming.

Complete results from twelve years of IOP polling research on the political views of younger voters are available at www.iop.harvard.edu.

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Pictured from L to R: Trey Grayson, director of the IOP; Anne Johnson, director of Campus Progress; Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote; Andrew Jencks, MTV correspondent; and John Della Volpe, IOP director of polling.