Millennials are like any other demographic: easy to stereotype, hard to define

150 150 Nadine Ono

(photo: Flickr/Daniel Go)

The term “Millennial” defines the generation born between 1980 and 2000 and raised in the era of mass media and digital technology. But, many people north of 40 often stereotype Millennials as 20-something hipsters who made mustaches ironic and would be lost without their mobile devices. To lump this generation into a narrowly-defined group would be a mistake because Millennials are as a diverse as any group of people with a shared trait, be it age, gender or skin color. 

Take voting for instance. The Millennial generation spans 20 years and, yes, the youngest are still several years away from casting their first ballots, which leaves voting to those born between 1980 and 1996. In the last California primary, the turnout was the lowest in the California’s history. Many experts pointed the finger at the younger generation for skipping the polls. In reality, with less than 25 percent turnout, there’s plenty of blame for everyone.

So, do Millennials vote? As you might expect, the answer depends on who you ask.

“I vote in major elections, but I’m pretty haphazard in more local and state stuff,” said Dena Rohde, a 33-year-old executive assistant from West Los Angeles. Rohde was born at the beginning of the Millennial generation. She tries to keep up politically, but is very focused on where she gets her information, “I do spend time taking a look at my sample ballots and, kind of, like looking at my several Democratic voting guides.”

Chris Ellis, a 28-year-old California State University, Northridge student agreed, “I follow the presidential elections, watch all of the debates and stuff like that, I have an opinion.”

And 19-year-old Tyler Nakagawa, a South Pasadena resident on his way to his sophomore year at the University of Oregon is planning to register to vote soon, “I hope to vote when I’m registered.” And he may be more engaged than his others his age, “I get my info on each candidate by viewing a number of websites such as each candidate’s personal website. I also get info by watching TV, specially the debates and conventions.”

By contrast, not much will get 19-year-old Tommy Lengerke, a Mira Costa Community College student, to the polls, “I don’t really intend to vote because it really doesn’t appeal to me.”

Twenty-six year old Michael Krupczak, a mobile app designer from Pasadena isn’t a voter, but said, “my friends are kind of split 50-50, half of them vote and half of them don’t vote.” He added, “It just seems like a lot of my friends just aren’t into anything political, they don’t seem to worry about it.”

According to The Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), between 1974 and 2010, the voter turnout rate among 18 to 29-year-olds dropped, but only by about four percent. In the same period, the turnout rate for voters over 30 dropped by three percent. This makes the Millennial generation not much different from those who preceded them and reflects an overall downward trend in voting. 

So how does California plan to tackle the sliding voter turnout rates? Go where the Millennials hang out – on the web. California Forward is championing a joint effort by MapLight and the League of Women Voters of California to expand Voter’s Edge, a website that makes information on all the poliitcal races accessible and non-partisan. The site will include information on ballot initiatives, local and statewide candidates and even some local measures.

Krupczak has another idea to boost voter turnout among his generation, “everyone is using the internet, especially at my age. If you can vote online, I’m sure that would probably see the biggest increase in voters you can get.” He just might have to build an app for that.


Nadine Ono

All stories by: Nadine Ono