As a 20-something, I’m a Millennial, one of the millions of young people born between 1980 and the early 2000s. Though mainstream media pundits peg Millennials as the most narcissistic, selfish and hopeless generation yet, young voters give us some incredibly powerful reasons to hope for progressive change in politics.
Young voters care, and in the 2012 election, young people showed up to vote. Nationwide, 50 percent of Millennial voters cast their ballots, and in doing so, swung the results of the Presidential election. If Romney had won just half the youth vote in swing states Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, he’d currently be in office. Young voters have consistently turned out to vote at 50 percent or higher since 2004, showing not only that young voters care, but that they’re here to stay.
When I say youth voters, however, I should explain that I mean something more complex. The Millennial Generation is the largest, most ethnically and racially diverse generation in the history of the United States. We’re also, according to a 2012 GALLUP poll, more likely to identify as Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) than any other generation. In other words, being young today is about taking what used to be marginal, and making it mainstream.
Studies also show that young voters, while increasingly progressive, are less likely to affiliate with a given party. They are, however, more likely than previous generations to support same sex marriage, gender and race equity, and view immigration favorably. Rather than dwell in partisan politics, Millennials are more likely to support issue-driven progress.
In my work at the Washington Bus — a nonpartisan, nonprofit that engages young people in civic and political life — I have the privilege of working with inspirational young people from across the state. I meet people who are passionate about prison reform, the war on drugs, voter access and fair election systems, to list just a few issues. As a young woman of color, this is what inspires me to wake up every morning. My generation of voters is already working for the kind of progressive changes we need.
Our generation is huge, diverse, and more importantly, motivated by who we are and where we come from. That gives us all a lot to hope for.