Generation Opportunity: Can Obama, Romney Connect with Ohio’s Millennials?

Generation Opportunity: Can Obama, Romney Connect with Ohio’s Millennials?


Generation Opportunity, an advocacy group that engages young professionals, college students, and other young adults, yesterday released results from a survey that assessed the political sentiments of 18 to 29 year olds living in Ohio. Generation Opportunity found the following:

• 85% of Ohio’s 18 to 29 year olds said that they changed some aspect of their daily lives as a result of the state of the economy;
• 79% of the survey respondents said that they have delayed or might not do at least one major life event due to the current state of the economy;
• 33% of the respondents said that current political leaders reflect the interests of today’s young people;
• 73% said that the lack of job opportunities is shrinking the American middle class;
• 64% of respondents said that securing a quality, full-time job is more important that getting lower student loan interest rates; and
• 81% of respondents plan to vote in the fall elections.

In its release, Generation Opportunity, which has a social media following of 4 million individuals, laid the majority of the blame for economic woes on the economic policies of the White House. “Young adults in Ohio are paying a very steep personal price for the poor economy and economic policies coming out of the White House that are crushing the creation of full-time, meaningful jobs under the weight of higher taxes and ever-expanding regulations”, said Paul T. Conway, president of Generation Opportunity.

Later that afternoon in an interview with Politic, Mr. Conway went on to describe a generation of young people that fear they are facing less prospects for getting ahead in today’s economy. “The number one issue for Millennials is job creation”, said Mr. Conway. The daily dilemmas faced by the millennial generation including cutting back on grocery and gift spending; postponing the purchase of a house; deciding whether to move back in with parents; getting married; or paying off student debt early.

Mr. Conway went on to describe a generation that is far more in tune with the economic and public policy climate than most people would give them credit for. “It’s wrong for the public to look at these people as self-absorbed”, said Mr. Conway. “These people are plugged in, want to make a difference, and still see America as a land of opportunity.”

Mr. Conway added that what drives millennial engagement is their access to various news sources across the Internet. Millennials are using the technology to engage and comment on today’s events. Millennials also revere technology and marketing icon Steve Jobs as an example of how entrepreneurship and a free market can be combined to make changes in the world.

And bad policy and bad policy statements may be having a bad impact not only on the economy but on how these young people are viewing their political leaders.

Regarding policy, 53% of Millennials believe lowering taxes will help businesses increase hiring. Almost 60% of Millennials believe the economy has a better chance of growing when the government steps out of the way. A whopping 69% of Millennials prefer to see federal spending decreased versus an increase in personal taxes.

According to Mr. Conway, Generation Opportunity has also found that Millennials believe that fiscal policy has an impact on national defense. The three issues that concern Millennials are the national debt, energy dependency, and indebtedness to foreign nations.

Millennials overall are disheartened by the Obama Administration’s rhetorical attack on businesses. “Businesses are being singled out”, said Mr. Conway. “Why attack the businesses that are going to create jobs?”

Two important take aways from the survey. First is the political stance of the Millennials. If Mr. Conway is correct, then Millennials view themselves as independent and not in any particular political camp. They believe that they deserve detailed policy proposals. They deserve more from their political leadership in exchange for what they have already contributed to America in terms of volunteerism, both at home in their communities and abroad in the Iran and Afghanistan combat theaters. This generation witnessed the September 11th terrorist attacks and went overseas to fight, said Mr. Conway.

The second takeaway is the opportunity for Mr. Obama to re-connect with Millennials, and for Mr. Romney, an opportunity to connect for the first time. “Mr. Obama and members of his Administration has taken 437 trips to colleges in order to reconnect with young Americans”, Mr. Conway said.

In 2008, 66% of Millennials voted for Mr. Obama. Today, Mr. Obama is facing a 15% to 16% drop in favorability among this demographic. Given all the trips taken by the Administration, and the decline in support from Millennials, there may still be an opportunity for Mr. Romney to connect.