According to Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, the authors of Millennial Makeover, a major political realignment occurs nearly every four decades. The causes of these political shifts are generally attributed to greater-than-average population growth in the years leading up to the change and rising immigration. This book was written before the 2008 presidential election, however the authors were eerily accurate in predicting that the next man or woman to govern our nation would be the person who can transcend the communication traditions and political styles of past generations to reach the next generation of voters, the Millennials.
Millennials are individuals born between 1982 and 2003. They are the largest generation of Americans and are also the most ethically diverse. They grew up in homes where parents were more likely to raise them through co-parenting, a system where both mothers and fathers played an equal role in child rearing. Most Millennials have mothers who have entered the work force, making this arrangement necessary.
Millennials largely grew up in supportive, encouraging environments and perceive themselves to be valued members of their families, schools, and communities. Therefore, their outlook on life can be both optimistic and idealistic. They have a strong group orientation and are very comfortable with the Internet, mobile communications, and online social networking.
Politically, Millennials are more tolerant of policies that encourage inclusiveness, and are more willing to rely on the government to deal with economic and social issues so everyone can have a chance at a better life. Due to the extent of racial diversity that this generation grew up with, this generation favors policies that support racial preferences and affirmative action programs. This group does not discriminate against homosexuals, however, they do cling to more traditional family values in terms of policy. They are also more supportive of women entering the workforce.
And finally, Millennials (thus far) identify more with the Democratic Party. Results from election polls in 2006 indicate that 43% of 18-29-year-olds (the majority of people in this group are Millennials) aligned themselves with Democrats while only 31% aligned themselves with Republicans.
So what does this mean for the future of politics, campaigning, and advocacy? Anyone who wants to reach this group of people will have to meet them were they spend their time: online. Like radio, motion picture, and television before it, the Internet is changing the ways campaigners communicate with and reach their target audiences. History indicates that, though new communication tools won’t replace tools of the past, they most likely will become a dominant force in the communication mix in the present and future.
Young voters are two times more likely than others to use the Internet, rather than newspapers, to find information about candidates, so candidates need to post profiles and campaign information online. Their online communications should support, rather than replace their more traditional offline channels of communication (television, radio, print). However, since Millennials are the largest generation ever to vote, campaigners need to develop thoughtful and effective online strategies to reach and engage them.