Millennials Don’t Feel They Can Make A Difference, But They’ll Decide This Election

“The story of this election will be the story of voter turnout among millennials.”


Has there ever, in the history of the world, been a generation more misunderstood, even hated, than millennials? Probably not.


They (we) get a bad rap, when it’s old people who keep breaking the economy. It’s they who cry about “the war on coal” when in truth the rich are waging an ultimately futile war on clean energy. The latest look at the latest data is a reminder that millennials are smarter than they look.

If millennials were the only demographic cohort voting in the 2016 election, it’d be a runaway for Hillary Clinton, who’d take all but a handful of states along with 504 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 23. Narrow that from 69 million total millennials to just white ones and Clinton still rolls into office: 348 to 163, with only 270 required to win the White House.

“I think the story of this election will be the story of voter turnout among millennials,” says David Cahn, co-author of When Millennials Rule: The Reshaping of America. “I think if they turn out and vote for [Democratic nominee Hillary] Clinton, she wins. If they don’t, she loses.”

So, will they?

More than three-quarters will indeed vote in this election, according to the the 2016 Millennial Impact Report produced by Achieve and the Case Foundation. Respondents, for the record, have been an almost even split between men and women aged 18 to 36, the majority working full-time and with a bachelor’s degree in their back pocket. While some millennial voters are on the fence about casting their ballot, fewer than 10% are actually not planning to vote come November 8.


Clinton commanded the attention from and affinity of 31% of prospective voters in the first wave of millennial reporting, which ran between May and July, followed by Bernie Sanders (27%) and Trump (16%). The latest research over the last three months has Clinton taking 45% of the millennial vote, compared to 18% Trump, with 17% saying they’d still rather vote Sanders. (Let it go, Bros, seriously.)

Those are somewhat surprising numbers, given that half of millennials claim they’re “conservative-leaning,” compared to 41% liberal-leaning and 9% neutral. But the dearth of so-called conservatives voting for the conservative party nominee also reflects some of the millennial sensibility that splits with the older, by-the-rules establishment generation.

While some folks, mostly Facebook pundits and fact-hating Twitter trolls, will claim that the media is biased against Donald Trump, there is literally no one on planet Earth that has done more to convince many people the GOP nominee is a “non-option” for the president than Trump himself.

The very fact Trump received the nomination may actually have something to do with the lack of faith millennials have in the U.S. government to “do what is right.”

About half of millennials in the survey say they trust the government either “a little” or “not at all.” One quarter say they trust it “some,” and less than one-fifth say they trust the government “a lot.”


Another trend worth pulling out from the report is related to whether people between the ages of 18 and 36 feel they can make an impact in the world, given their reputation as both digital natives and all-around social do-gooders.

They don’t. Thirty percent believe a person like them can have no impact or just a small impact in making the U.S. a better place to live; 31% believe they can make a moderate impact and another 31% think they can have a big impact; 7% don’t know. Men are about 10% more likely than women to think they can have a big impact.

Maybe attitudes around personal agency will improve if the United States makes American history by electing its first female head of state (women have long been strong leaders of governments around the world, especially over the last decade).

And at this point, a Hillary Clinton presidency seems all but guaranteed—provided that millennials, you know, actually step away from the internet, get in line, and vote.

Check out all the findings from the first two waves of the 2016 Millennial Impact Report here.

About the author

John Converse Townsend covers smart solutions to social problems, as a writer and social media producer for Fast Company. He likes: black coffee, Paul Pogba, and long runs