Millennials in US & UK are less conservative as they age than previous generations according to voting data

Before we dive into the findings from, John Burn-Murdoch’s recent story, Millennials are shattering the oldest rule in politics in The Financial Times, let’s take a moment to define how we identify someone who is a Millennial and who they are.

MILLENNIAL: Also known as Generation Y or Gen Y, Millennials are the Western demographic cohort following Generation X and preceding Generation Z. Psychologist Jean Twenge defines Millennials as those born 1980–1994, but Millennials are also often referred to people born between 1980–2000.

In 2020, Pew Research published a report that said that in the previous year Millennials had surpassed Baby Boomers in the United States to become the largest generation. The numbers shared below are based on data from 2019.

+ Millennials (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) 72.1 million
+ Boomers (ages 55 to 73) 71.6 million
+ Generation X (ages 39 to 54) 65.2 million
*Note the age range for Millennials by Pew in this survey was 1981 – 1996

Using census data that defined Millennials as those born between 1980-2000, CNN Money reported in 2020 that 72% of Boomers in the US are white as compared to 56% of Millennials. The fastest growing and youngest demographic in the US is Latinos (44% of the 60+ million Latinos in the US identify as Millennials). I share that information because race can be a dividing and driving influence in American politics. However, Latinos are not as easily categorized – race and place of origin plays a significant role in their voting patterns. For example, Cubans typically vote Republican whereas Mexicans and Puerto Ricans vote for Democrats by a margin greater than 2:1.

With that context in mind, I found the Financial Times article, that looked at voting patterns of Millennials in the US and UK, very interesting. Race aside, some of the reasons cited for Millennials less conservative voting patterns was the economic and social uncertainty that has defined their generation including:
+ 2008/09 financial crisis
+ 2016 Brexit vote (in UK)
+ 2020/21 global pandemic
+ 2022 high inflation continuing to put home ownership out of reach

In the US, the Republican Party’s embrace of conspiracy theories and extreme social positions which accelerated during the Obama years (2008-16) and hopefully peaked during the Trump Administration (2016-2020) had to have been a driving force in Millennials distaste for the Republican Party. By contrast, Democrats seem far more balanced and centrist in their polices and language. The progressive wing in the Democratic Party have been tempered by moderates who did very well in the 2022 elections (including but not limited to Sen. Kelly from AZ, Sen. Cortez-Masto from NV, and Sen. Hassan from NH).

It’s probably an oversimplification to point to one or two variables, and past voting habits don’t guarantee future voting behavior but as a person who believes in a more progressive agenda, I find it heartening. With each election, Millennials and their younger cohort, Gen Z will be able to flex their political muscle and have greater influence. Next year will be an election year in the US (and likely in the UK). We will be able to see how voting trends with Millennials compare. Will they and their younger cohort (Gen Z) continue to vote in large numbers? Will they continue to reject the extreme rhetoric from the Republican Party? Time will tell, and I’ll be watching.

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