Opinion: Millennials are voters

We can expect the usual “so what” response from political pundits to a new Harvard Institute of Politics poll that found growing support for President Obama among the Millennial Generation – the population cohort between the ages of 18 and 29.

The web-based poll of 3,096 millennials taken between March 23 and April 9 found Obama leading his likely opponent, Mitt Romney, by a 17-point margin – gaining 6 percentage points since a similar poll taken in late November.

The conventional wisdom about this age group is that it doesn’t vote. That was the rap before the 2008 election when a number of pieces written before the general election dismissed youth enthusiasm for Obama as mostly liberal slackers who couldn’t be bothered to put down their bongs and go out to vote.
The CW on voter participation holds that it is the other end of the population spectrum – the older folks – who vote in higher than average numbers. And the older folk, well represented among the Tea Party cohort, aren’t big fans of the president.

The problem with this kind of echoed analysis is that it is heavy on the conventional and light on the wisdom.

The reality is that Millennials are voting in increasing numbers. Two million more in the age cohort voted in 2008 than did in 2004, bringing participation to a respectable 51 percent among Millennials. Analysis of the 2008 also found that minorities within this age group had an even higher percentage of participation – another fact that runs counter to accepted notions about voter participation.

The Obama campaign realized this in 2008 and again in the current election. A Pew Research Center report found that 25 percent of millennial voters were contacted by the Obama campaign in 2008 compared to 13 percent by the McCain campaign. This year Obama has seized many of the generation’s key issues, including his call for universities to lower costs, raising the availability of student loans, health care access and income disparity. Romney, who has struggled with an enthusiasm gap among older voters, has yet to make a credible pitch (other than deficit reduction) to younger voters.

But conventional wisdom can be a double-edged sword. The Obama campaign puts itself in peril if it assumes the youth vote is a lock in November and Romney would be wrong not to make his own pitch to what is becoming a power segment of the American electorate.

-Fred Bayles, the director of Boston University’s Statehouse Program, is a former national correspondent for The Associated Press and USA TODAY. He is author of Field Guide to Local Reporting.

Harvard poll: Only 1 in 5 Millennials thinks country is headed in right direction


FDNY debuts new fire simulator for blazes at…

The New York City Fire Department christened its newest, state-of-the-art, custom-built simulator at its training academy on Randall's Island Tuesday.


Bronx cop saves baby who stopped breathing

A Bronx police officer is credited with saving the life of a 2-month-old baby who stopped breathing Tuesday morning. Police Officer Johnny Castillo, 38, was…


Brewer celebrates Women's Equality Day with voter pledge

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer celebrated Women’s Equality Day Tuesday by pledging to register at least five women voters before the Oct. 10 deadline. Brewer…


NYPD looking for lewd D train rider

The NYPD is enlisting the public’s help to find a man they say performed a lewd act on the D train Saturday evening. The incident…


QUIZ: How many English words do you actually…

Are you as smart as you say you are? Are you a word nerd? Take this quick vocabulary test to find out if you're a true wordsmith. Good luck.


'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 12,…

If you've wondered whether Ali and Bethany knew each other, you got an answer tonight: Yes, and in a very tangled way. But many lingering…


Cymbals Eat Guitars Have Everything to 'LOSE'

At its most basic level, a rock band can be thought of as a family, a group of people selflessly devoted to a cause. When…


"Bachelor in Paradise" recap: Episode 4, 'Week Four'

Some things are hard to watch in a “Human Centipede” sort of way. Other things in an “American History X” sort of way. Does “Bachelor…


When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.


Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.


Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.


MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at top, Nationals climb


Who is having the most orgasms?

  Single lesbians report having orgasms more often than heterosexual women but both gay and straight men still come out on top of the climax…


Jonathan Adler shares his tips for a great…

Jonathan Adler took a break from boogie boarding at his beach house to tell us how to keep that Labor Day party festive.


Most popular Labor Day weekend destinations

Priceline.com released its Top 20 destinations for the end of summer, including Labor Day weekend. If you’re heading to any of these spots, expect a…


Working your way to type 2 diabetes: Job…

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a stressful job can be as risky for your health as a bad diet and no exercise. A…