Millennials and 2016
Prediction markets show Hillary Clinton with an 84 percent chance of winning on Nov. 8. But even with the gap between Clinton's and Donald Trump's overall support, one major question will remain unanswered after Election Day: When will millennials begin to split along typical Republican-Democratic lines?
A September Quinnipiac University poll found that Clinton led among 18-34 year olds with 31 percent of the group's support. Surprisingly, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson finished ahead of Trump (29 percent and 26 percent) and Jill Stein, the Green Party's nominee, captured 15 percent. This means that millennials' support for third-party candidates was 13 percentage points higher than their support for Clinton.
Trends away from youth support for the major political parties extend beyond this election. A plurality of millennials (41 percent) identity as independents, which is the highest rate for any generation and up from 34 percent in 2004. It is no wonder that millennials have been called the politically unclaimed generation.
Many issues determine millennials' political leanings and engagement, but this generation's views on economic policy are some of the most important.
The employment picture for millennials is bleak. For 18 and 19 year olds, the unemployment rate is 15.2 percent. For Americans ages 20 to 24 years, the rate is 8.1 percent. In contrast, those in their prime earning years face an unemployment rate of just 3.6 percent.
Many millennials have the desire to start their own firms. Young voters' respect for entrepreneurs goes far beyond near-universal reverence for Steve Jobs. Polls consistently find that two-thirds of millennials want to work for themselves.
This embrace of entrepreneurship is a point that both major presidential candidates fail to mention, much less emphasize. When it comes to the economy, it isn't promises of free college, as I explain below, nor the return of 1950s manufacturing jobs that resonate with young voters. It is instead the attraction of technology and flexible work. Without the economic growth that technology can provide, there is little hope of lowering millennials' high unemployment rates. Millennials will have trouble finding funding or a customer base with GDP growth hovering around 1.5 percent.
Clinton or Trump could have connected with young voters during the debates by saying that, while the American Dream may have once been finding employment at a large company...
This piece originally appeared in Washington Examiner