Does Obama Want Millennials to Save the World, or Just Democrats?

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Recently President Barack Obama wrote a piece for Medium, a relatively hip new publication platform based in San Francisco, directly addressing the Millennial generation. His piece is clearly tailored to appeal as much as possible to the youth population of America. “You’ve gone from renting movies on VHS tapes to purchasing and downloading them in a matter of minutes,” he writes, going on to discuss the issues found most often to effect this demographic — everyone from high school students to college graduates.

Predictably these included major issues the Democratic party has been campaigning on, from the pay gap to a minimum wage increase, to making college more affordable and loans easier to pay off. His rhetoric is clearly targeting a very specific audience, and at times it almost goes overboard; it almost tries too hard. “You may have graduated into the worst recession since the Great Depression, but today — for all the challenges you’ve already faced, and after all the grueling work it’s taken to bounce back — you’re in the best position to break into the newest sectors of the new American economy,” he wrote.

That same day the Office of the Press Secretary released a fact sheet on “Obama’s Agenda for Creating Economic Opportunity for Millennials,” and Obama spoke at Cross Campus in Los Angeles, Calif., with a focus on the “young entrepreneur.” The day before that, the White House published a post titled “This Is an Infographic About Millennials” with the tag line “Here’s what you need to know about Millennials: where they are, where they’re going, and what President Obama is doing to ensure their success.” And of course you can share it on social media. Does anyone else get the feeling that Obama’s hoping the Millennial vote can pull Democrats through this rough Midterm election come November?

The thing is, Obama doesn’t have to work so hard to win Millennials over. In 2008, he overwhelmingly won their votes, and in general they lean far more to the left in polls. Pew Research found that 13% of Millennials have consistently liberal political values and 28% mostly liberal compared to the 12% that were mostly conservative and the 3% who were consistently conservative. What’s more, Millennial Republicans are more liberal than older generations on certain issues, according to Pew. “Not only are Millennials less likely than older generations to identify as Republicans, but even those who do express significantly less conservative values than do their elders,” writes Pew Research.

This more liberal edge could push some young voters to go independent or Democrat in a race as contentious as this November’s is proving to be in so many states. Such a move could make all the difference in tight races like Kansas’s where Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) is facing an increasingly popular independent opponent — Greg Orman — who hasn’t said which way he’ll swing if elected. If young conservatives are already on the edge, voting for a middle of the road candidate — one who hasn’t been in Washington — might seem attractive, especially if there’s a chance they’ll vote Republican on many issues, but swing Democrat on topics like immigration and LGBT rights.

“We do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view,” wrote the Republican National Congress’s 2012 post-election Growth and Opportunity Project report. The report outlined in no uncertain terms that certain policies and social stances — most especially same-sex marriage and anti-gay sentiment — alienated potential voters in the younger demographics.

“Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement and issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.” That may have been the case in 2012, and it still is today based on the polls, but Obama is clearly banking on equal wages and better pay being two other gateways straight into the Democratic party.

But while Democrats may have a better chance of pulling in young votes, it doesn’t hurt to motivate them to hit the election booths in November, especially given the tough Senate race and Obama’s poor approval ratings. On the plus side, Obama’s outreach is better designed to reach out to a young electorate than the GOP’s nauseating attempts to cater to female voters. There’s something considerably more endearing about a plea for votes, shameless or not, that focuses on how your specific demographic will benefit from that party’s policy stances, rather than on whether or not you like dresses, weddings, or reality TV.

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Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS
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