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This post was guest written by Brandon Teeple, a junior at Wright State University.
What topics do you care about? Is it ever-increasing national budget? Or is it, perhaps, protecting gun rights? Each generation has a particular set of issues that are important to them, based on what stage of life they are in. For example, for the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) are greatly impacted by the current and future state of Social Security. But what about the millennials?
The Millennial generation is made up of those who are born somewhere between the early 1980s and early 2000s, aging somewhere between 19-36 in 2016. They are also now the world’s largest generation, accounting for 75.4 million people, or approximately 34% of the U.S. population.
According to a Pew Research Study, Millennials take a more liberal stance on social issues such as the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage, and immigration reform. As of 2014, 68% of Millennials support same-sex marriage, compared to 55% of Generation X and 48% of Baby Boomers. Even those Millennials who identify as Republican, either support or have no opinion on same-sex marriage. According to interviews of young Republicans conducted by Generation Progress, it’s a “no brainer,” citing the hesitancy to “infringe on any American Citizen’s God-given right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”
Much like Social Security for Baby Boomers, the millennials face a financial concern: debilitating student debt. According to a study by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Millennials typically incur a student debt of $30,000--nearly double that of the previous generation. This “debt sentence” for the 70% of students who take on student loans may have a long-term effects, as these students are putting off key milestones in life, such as getting married, having children, and saving for retirement. The trouble doesn’t stop there. In 2014, the unemployment rate for 16-24 year old’s was at 13.6%, more than doubling the U.S. unemployment rate (6.2%) at that time. Even this is an improvement when compared to the 2010 rate, where the rate was at an all-time high at 19.6%. With the debt woes of Millennials, it is no surprise that a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling discovered that Millennials are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports student loan refinancing and even free education.
But how much are this year’s candidates talking student debt and other important issues for Millennials?
Above depicts the percentage breakout of “Hot Topics” both Presidential Candidates have discussed since July. These articles monitored include topics such as abortion, gun control, marijuana and other social issues. The biggest topics that have been discussed over the past 30+ days are clear: taxes, immigration, and racial issues. With the recent developments in Charlotte, North Carolina, racial issues certainly are on everyone’s minds represented by the gray sections, and make up approximately 13% of the topics discussed by the candidates since July. Compare that to taxes, which make up more than 35% of all topics discussed. It should be noted, however, that the number of news stories for taxes is inflated due to the focus on Republican Party nominee Donald Trump’s tax returns being discussed and scrutinized since the first Presidential Debate on September 26th.
But again, what about the topics that resonate most with millennials, such as the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage and student loans? These topics combined make up less than 10% of the topics discussed. Does this mean the candidates don’t care about these issues? Have they decided to disregard these topics because the generation most likely to vote for them, the Millennials, have terrible voter turnout? While no one can say with absolute certainty “yes” or “no,” this is likely not the case. Instead, this might be case of candidates needing to discuss topics that have come up and taken the nation’s interest, such as the racial issues and gun control. Look for the candidates to focus more on less polarizing and more moderate topics now that they have secured their party’s nominations in an attempt to entice the undecided millennial voters.
The information discussed in this post is derived from sources and graphics acquired via LexisNexis Newsdesk and Academic.