As They Become the Largest Living Generation, Millennials More Diverse, Tolerant, Skeptical

Dec 11, 2015

Millennials are projected to surpass Baby Boomers as the largest living generation this year, according to the Pew Research Center. And as they're between the ages of 18 and 34, they'll be eligible to vote in the upcoming caucuses and 2016 election. So, what do these young voters care about?

As you might expect when lumping so many people at different points in their lives together, their interests are diverse. This was demonstrated when a Drake University journalism class set out to talk with students on campus about the issues they're most passionate about. The answers ranged from religious liberty and access to education, to racial justice and climate change.

Tim Webber is a student in that class and the Editor in Chief of the Times Delphic at Drake. He says he was surprised.

"The thing that struck me about everyone that I talked to, is that they're all incredibly passionate about the things that they're interested in." Webber says he is particularly concerned about gun control, infrastructure and space exploration.

Rachel Caufield, Associate Director for Citizen Engagement at the Harkin Institute and Associate Professor of Political Science at Drake University says Millennials reflect the views of the electorate as a whole, with a few distinguishing characteristics.

"This is the most diverse generation in U.S. history. It's also the most tolerant generation in U.S. history," Caufield says. "This is a generation that's pretty skeptical about their own economic future, and so as a result, I think they tend to be more forward-looking in terms of their issues."

At the other end of the Millennial spectrum, Libby Crimmings is the founder of "Give a Damn Des Moines." It's a "loose organization of people," that has been meeting monthly to find out what people in this age group care about enough to stand up for it in front of a group of strangers.

Participants in the democratic Iowa caucuses must express candidate preferences publicly, and on the GOP side, debate party platform positions with other caucus-goers. The group has been holding events to get voters registered, demystify the caucus process and debate the issues. 'The winner of the "most important damn issue," mockus held earlier this year was a write-in -- Pay Equity.

In this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Caufield, Crimmings, and Webber about the youth vote.