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How to Win Millenials: Equality, Climate Change, and Gay Marriage


Two months ago, Derek Thompson walked readers through the results of a huge new survey by the Pew Research Center on Millennials and their attitudes and opinions. As he noted, this generation, roughly defined as people between the ages of 18 and 33, is the object of almost obsessive levels of scrutiny and observation.

Now, another new survey—this one from Harstad Strategic Research, Inc.—adds to what we’re learning about Millennials, especially their views on political issues. That’s important, because this generational cohort now accounts for about one-fourth of the voting age population—a voting bloc even larger than senior citizens.

Harstad, a firm that mostly conducts surveys for Democrats (including Barack Obama), conducted the poll in March and April for the Youth Engagement Fund and Project New America. You can see the survey instrument itself, along with results and an explanation of the methodologyhere. The results are presented in graphic form here.

One big takeaway is that Millennials are strongly supportive of governmental intervention in society on a wide array of issues:

Harstad Strategic Research, Inc.

A different question produced similarly strong opinions about their preferred role for government:

The survey also suggests Millennials place a high value on equality. Respondents were given a list of values and asked, “Which TWO are most important given the challenges we face as a country?” This bar chart shows the percentage citing each value in response, with equality and economic opportunity mentioned by the largest percentage of respondents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, respondents who identified themselves as Democrats prioritized equality and opportunity while self-identified Republicans ranked personal responsibility and accountability higher:

The poll results show Millennials to be overwhelmingly supportive of progressive policies that promote opportunity and economic security:

According to this poll, members of Generation Y are overwhelmingly progressive on key issues like gun safety, climate change and renewable energy, and access to abortion:


Although Millennials are lopsidedly progressive in their views, there is still a fair amount of variety in their views, based partly on their demographic and life-situation characteristics. The pollsters used the results to develop seven different attitudinal clusters or segments among Millennials:

The analysts explain those attitudinal clusters this way:

The poll also tried to measure what kinds of issue-related messages especially resonate with Millennials. The survey instrument presented respondents with paragraph-length position statements that potential congressional candidates might take. Respondents were asked to say how persuasive they found such a position. (The statements below are much-abbreviated summaries of those position statements.) The results show that if Democrats are looking to maximize their support among Millennials, issues of economic opportunity and pocketbook security are the ones to emphasize:

But Republican candidates won’t have much to fear from this portion of the electorate if Democratic campaigns cannot get these voters to register and turn out to vote. Twenty-six percent of Millennial respondents report that they have not registered to vote:

And while a slim majority of Millennial voters claim they are certain to vote in the 2016 election, they report that the likelihood of their turning out to vote in the midterm elections is much, much lower:

As noted at the outset, interest in the political attitudes of Millennials is nearly obsessive. In addition to the mammoth Pew Research poll mentioned above, yet another survey of Millennials and their political attitudes was released this spring by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Although it is not easy to make direct comparisons across polls (most obviously, because of differently worded questions and other methodological issues), it’s worth noting some general points of similarity, as well as some differences, emerging from each of these big surveys:

  • Although all three polls see Millennials as more aligned with Democrats on political issues, the Pew survey found that 50 percent describe themselves as political independents, compared with 38 percent in the IOP poll.
  • All three polls found high levels of support for same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana.
  • High levels of student debt emerged as a prominent concern in all three polls.
  • Despite facing economic hardships (like high student debt and a tough economy), respondents in all three polls report high levels of optimism about their economic futures.

In general, both the Pew poll and the IOP survey were much more ambitious and more comprehensive than the Harstad poll—and, at least in my view, used preferable polling methods.

But the Harstad survey, commissioned by organizations that have overt political agendas, offers something interesting the other two polls lack. Because the researchers were tasked, in part, with finding out how particular political messages resonate with Millennials, their results give us an especially illuminating window into the strategies that progressive Democratic organizations and candidates may use this fall to win support from this important electoral bloc.


This piece originally appeared at

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Say No to Kennedy’s Request

Ted Kennedy's recent request that Massachusetts legislators change the law on the filling of a senatorial vacancy really burns my ass.   Until 2004, Massachusetts law gave the governor the power to appoint a temporary replacement in the event of a vacancy in one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats.  But the state legislature, controlled by Democrats, changed the law that year in anticipation of the possibility that John Kerry might win the presidency, leaving his vacant Senate seat to be filled by then-Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican.  Now, Kennedy wants the law changed back so that Deval Patrick, the current governor, could appoint someone to replace him immediately in the event of his death while in office.  Kennedy's position is that the urgency of contemporary problems (especially the need to pass health-insurance reform) argues in favor of giving the governor the power to fill the vacancy so the seat would not be empty for the five months or so before a special election could be organized.

The Boston Globe today editorialized in favor of Kennedy's proposal. I'm glad to see that the reaction of the state's Democratic leaders to Kennedy's request is decidedly cool.  Mine is downright hostile. I think it's a terrible idea. Kennedy's proposal is cynical, manipulative, and hypocritical.  Yes, now would be a terrible time to have a vacant U.S. Senate seat.  But what isn't such a time?!  Moreover, there is no reason in the world to leave the choice of a U.S. Senator (even a temporary one) to one person. There is too much of New Jersey and Illinois in the Massachusetts political culture for me to be comfortable with gubernatorial appointment of a senator.  Deval Patrick is no Rod Blagojevich, but the Kennedy tentacles are too strong in Massachusetts for anyone to trust that an appointment would be on the merits.  We all know that American elections are not exactly examplars of fairness and equality, but an election is still the proper way to fill a vacancy.  Massachusetts legislators should leave the law alone.

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Clinton’s Unbridled Ego and the Losers Who Fuel It

The news out of the Democratic Party is that Hillary Clinton’s name will be formally placed into nomination at the Democratic Convention in two weeks.  Yes, you read that correctly.

As Marc Ambinder reports:

Clinton advisers informed the
Obama team that many of Clinton’s staunchest
supporters [he’s referring to lunatics like these] felt strongly that something had to be done, and that
Clinton had concluded that, in part for the sake of unity, their wishes
ought to be respected.  They heard back immediately: the Obama campaign
had always been open to having her name
placed in nomination alongside his.

If Clinton’s name is formally offered up, she could be
afforded the normal complement of nominating and seconding speeches,
and the official role call of votes will include participation from her
delegates.  (In theory, if enough Obama delegates change their minds,
then Clinton could win the nomination. In practice, there’s no chance
that will happen.)

Oh yeah?  Remember, we’re dealing with the Clintons here. The do-anything-to-win Clintons.  I wouldn’t be surprised if two plane-loads of Obama delegates mysteriously crash on their way to Denver and Hillary ends up the nominee. 

I am so sick of the Clintons and their insatiable egos AND so sick of the whiny losers who are still stuck on Hillary’s failed venture. 

What’s wrong with all this is that it takes the focus off of Obama during the convention and puts it where it should not be — on Clinton and on the divisive supporters who refuse to accept her defeat.

Speaking of those lunatics:

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The Amazing Obama Machine

Barack Obama’s extraordinary skills as a community organizer have infused his whole campaign organization, making it likely that its voter-mobilization drive will transform the Democratic party.

Meanwhile, you can mentally erase that trope (tripe?) about Obama having a problem attracting the votes of working-class whites.  It’s a McCain problem, not an Obama problem.

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A National Surveillance State

That’s what Jack Balkin says we’re headed toward.  And it’s happening in part because of the cowardliness of Congressional Democrats:

[T]he passage of this bill
looks very much like a repeat of 2002, when the Democrats, eager not to
be cast as weak on national security, caved on supporting an
authorization for the war in Iraq, or 2006, when they caved on the
Military Commissions Act. You might think that they had learned their
lessons by now. When you give George Bush what he wants, people don’t
think you are strong on national security. They think you are weak
because you are a pushover. If you can’t stand up to a lame duck
President with 30 percent approval ratings, who are you ever going to
stand up to?

The answer is: "nobody."  Instead of giving in to Bush, they should be impeaching and convicting him. There are very few members of Congress who are worth a damn. They’re a product of a poisoned political system that has encouraged the emergence of career legislators.  If you want to make a career of being in Congress, what do you do?  You cave in whenever your political opponents figure out a way of spinning and framing an issue in a way that you fear will work against you. We’re back to fear.  Fear.  That’s what it’s all about.  Make the people fearful.  Make other politicians fearful.

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Only Fifteen with Courage

When the Senate capitulated yesterday on the shameful FISA bill — allowing more warrantless wiretapping and giving immunity to cooperative telecom companies — only fifteen Senators had the courage to try to use procedural tactics to hold up the legislation:

  • Joseph Biden, DE
  • Barbara Boxer, CA
  • Sherrod Brown, OH
  • Maria Cantwell, WA
  • Chris Dodd, CT
  • Dick Durbin, IL
  • Russ Feingold, WI
  • Tom Harkin, IA
  • John Kerry, MA
  • Frank Lautenberg, NJ
  • Patrick Leahy, VT
  • Robert Menendez, NJ
  • Bernie Sanders, VT
  • Chuck Schumer, NY
  • Ron Wyden, OR

Sen. Russ Feingold, an aggressive opponent of the compromise, expressed his regret over the unwillingness of most of his fellow Democrats to put up a principled fight.

"It’s the latest chapter of running for cover when the
Administration tries to intimidate Democrats on national security
issues.  It’s the most
embarrassing failure of the Democrats I’ve seen since 2006, other than
the failure to vote to end the Iraq war. These are the two real sad
aspects of an otherwise pretty good record. It’s letting George Bush
and Dick Cheney have their way even though they’re that unpopular and
on their way out. It’s really incredible."