Millennials have surpassed baby boomers in numbers and could influence the outcome of the general election in November.
“It will be very important for the candidates to light a fire so millennials will go to the polls,” said Rick Whisonant, political analyst and chair of the history department at York Technical College in Rock Hill. “That will be a huge challenge for both candidates.”
According the Pew Research Center, the number of millennials (18-34) now matches that of boomers (51-69). But a report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows there are 75.4 million millennials (ranging in ages from 18-35), surpassing 74.9 million baby boomers.
Whisonant said in the 2012 election, Romney used a 2000 census playbook while the Obama team targeted new and shifting demographics reported by the latest census.
“Candidates must be mindful of the shifting demographics,” Whisonant said, “and they must identify the concerns of the dominant group, not just the majority group.”
In ’08 there was enthusiasm on the Democratic side. In 2012, millennials became disillusioned and the turnout was not as strong, he said. In 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of eligible millennials voted in the national election. In 2012, that number dropped to 46 percent. This election, voter turnout will be essential.
The adjunct instructor and lecturer at Winthrop University said for millennials, “Labels don’t mean a lot to them. They are no longer trapped into religious denomination labels like Protestants or Catholics. They’re not flocking to their parents’ church, where enrollment is dying.
“Similarly, in politics millennials don’t feel bound by labels,” he said. “They are looking at the personality of the candidates, what they are bringing to the table.”
Three York County millennials shared their views.
Clover High School graduate Dwayne McClure, 24, is a campaign director for senate hopeful Republican Mark Palmer. McClure is an insurance agent, who majored in political science at University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Kat Yoffie, 20, is president of her chapter of Winthrop College Republicans. Yoffie, office assistant in the summer for the military student’s office on campus and at the on-campus gym, graduated from Rock Hill High School in 2014. She is studying English and political science.
Roman Vitanza, 22, is 3rd vice chair for York County Democrat Party, president of Winthrop University College Democrats, State Federation leader for College Democrats of America and deputy communications director for South Carolina Young Democrats. He is majoring in dgital information design, concentration in digital mass media with a minor in political science and history. The Arlington, Texas, native is employed with Walk2Campus Properties.
Question. When and how did you become interested in politics?
DM: I first got involved at the age of 16 when I did light campaigning for Sen. John McCain. It was really light — just a couple of friends and myself trying to educate the seniors we knew at school on the two candidates and their dichotomies. It wasn’t until President Obama came to Charlotte, and I reconnected with Peggy Upchurch that I got really involved. She took me to my first YCGOP meeting when I was 17, which led to me getting involved with Rep. Tommy Pope’s campaign. That snowballed into my work as an intern for Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, as a page for Pope and now as campaign director for Palmer.
KY: I first became interested in politics growing up when my dad and I would sit around in the evenings and watch the news. I was always so horrified by some of the events which would spark conversations with my dad about what it all meant. Once I got a little older it did no good to sit around in the evenings and strategize about what was going on and how to stop it. I actually needed to get up and become an activist for the things in which I believe.
RV: My parents had been involved in the state and local government politics, and when I was 16 decided to bring me to a meeting of the Pickens County Democratic Party. After hearing the stances of everyone in the room, I decided politics to be one of my hobbies while in high school. This has evolved to being so active in the state and national parties that I’ve gotten to meet superstars in the political ring.
Question. What is your view of a “great America?”
DM: First, America is always great; and we have been great since our inception. So I don’t think Mr. Trump can make our nation great again because men like Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams ensured that in our founding principles. What I would like to see is the restoration of American pride and ingenuity. We need to restore our faith in our republic, our constitution and our principles. A great America is a proud America, and if Donald Trump makes us all proud and restores the truth of American “exceptionalism,” then he would have achieved his goal in my book.
KY: To me, America is already great. It always has been and it always will be. We are blessed every day we wake up as Americans. However, that does not mean I don’t think some things could change. In order to make America better, I would like to see more protections of freedom.
RV: Where people don’t have to struggle for the basic needs. Where police brutality is not prevalent on African American citizens. Where you don’t have to decide on if you are getting your medicine to live or pay rent. Where people won’t be discriminated on the basis of their sexual orientation or the people they associate with.
Question. How do you describe this generation of young voters, especially millennials?
DM: This generation of voters is lost. They are looking for answers but they don’t want the truth. Our party has dropped the ball at reaching out to them and there’s a cultural gulf.The Hillary folks I’ve encountered from my generation are for her because of her gender and nothing more, really. It’s a blessing and a curse that they tend to live in the moment.
KY: I think when non-millennials look at us, they see us as very divided. While, from the outside looking in, they may seem very different, I think every millennial is looking for the same thing. We have grown up and seen the ‘same old, same old’ just is not working anymore, and we are scared for the future. While some millennials look to socialism for the answer, and some look to more conservative values and borderline libertarian beliefs, the root of the search is the same for all of us.
RV: From what I have seen young voters are focused heavily on social welfare and making sure that we can sustain ourselves for the future. But at the same time they want someone they can trust. Most millennials view Hillary Clinton as an untrustful person, but they would never want to vote for someone like Donald Trump who has been building his entire campaign on isolating the United States from the rest of the civilized world, and placing the blame on the actions of our previous government leaders on innocent people.
Question. How can we best get people out of poverty and instill in them a desire to work toward social mobility?
DM: Work your way out, and make sure education is a priority. A minimally adequate education provides a minimally adequate work force and minimally adequate life. A child born into that cycle is likely to stay right there. I know it may not be a popular stance, but I think our education system should be fully funded with incentives for high-performing schools because it is an investment in our state. Or we can sit by and surrender more in tax dollars to subsidize minimally adequate lifestyles.
KY: I think the easiest answer is jobs. Capitalism is the one and only way to get people out of poverty. We need to instill motivation, determination and discipline; but that is, of course, easier said than done. Many people rely of the government’s handouts to get by but this just creates a system of generational poverty, which then creates a disdain for the working class and creates much of the divide we are seeing in society today. Star Parker wrote an amazing book called “Uncle Sam’s Plantation” that details how modern day welfare is exactly like slavery. And just as she says, welfare and government safety nets are not the answer to this problem. The answer is motivating folks to go out and earn a salary and have pride in themselves and their work.
RV: By giving them the tools to get out. Education, resources, and training so they can help themselves and their local communities.
Question. What do you want to say to young voters?
DM: Read constantly, challenge everything you hear, study the constitution and federalist/anti-federalist papers, then … welcome to the Republican Party.
KY: I would encourage young voters to get involved. Many people are making decisions for us and for our country, but we’ll be the ones facing the consequences of those decisions. I would also urge young voters to take some time to seriously think about our country and what you would like it to look like in 20 years when you have families and are working, living life beyond the comfort of mom and dad’s house or the comfort of a university. I have never been stronger in my opinions than when I have to defend them against people who think Socialism is the answer to all life’s problems. If you can defend your positions against opposing views, then you have a good understanding of what you believe, and most importantly, why you believe it.
RV: Go out and find the person that your views most likely go into alignment with, Don’t just do what your parents, your church leaders, neighbors, or friends say. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be active in not only your social lives, but your local community! Advancements can’t happen unless people are willing to stand up, get active, and ‘get fired up and ready to go.’
Questions directed to each party candidate:
Question. Why do you think voters have found an affinity for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump?
DM: He’s really struck a chord with a sizable chunk of the party, and it has a lot to do with the simplicity of his message. Brevity and clarity are key, so when he tells people he’ll build a wall, it’s something you get instantaneously without any qualifiers. It’s refreshing that someone in the party has that kind of approach. We don’t want to talk over people’s heads constantly or assume a condescending posture like the current administration does or Hillary Clinton. Trump wants to “make America great again.”
KY: I think Donald Trump seems to many people to be that “outsider.” He isn’t a politician and he says what he thinks. While this has gotten him in trouble with the media, I think it has garnered a great deal of respect for him. Most politicians will not make such outlandish comments because they are constantly seeking re-election, so I think many people appreciate his honesty and also agree with his remarks.
Question. Why do you think voters have an affinity for Hillary Clinton?
RV: Hillary Clinton has actually done a lot for the people while she was the FLOTUS, even with the recent events happening around her she has actually put many families first. Even though many people don’t actually trust her, the alternative is someone who would catapult the United States into a period of regression and undo many years of advancement that everyone is working for.
In York County
Age Females Males
18-24 6,743 5,775
25-44 30,609 24,559
45-64 31,575 27,623
65+ 17,444 14,291
Source: York County Registration & Elections