Foon Rhee

Who are California’s millennial voters?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets supporters on Monday at Temple University in Philadelphia during a campaign stop focusing on the millennial vote.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets supporters on Monday at Temple University in Philadelphia during a campaign stop focusing on the millennial vote. Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

Millennials are all the rage in presidential politics these days.

You can’t get away from analysis and speculation about what they want and what they’ll do on Nov. 8. Many were loyal soldiers in the Bernie Sanders army, and haven’t yet enlisted for Hillary Clinton. Political pundits want to know: Will they come around to keep Donald Trump out of the White House? Will they lodge a protest vote with Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party nominee Jill Stein? Or will they just stay home?

So it’s instructive to get a clearer political portrait of millennial voters. Earlier this month, the Public Policy Institute of California provided just that for those in our state.

Millennials (ages 18 to 34) are more liberal than older voters, less likely to be Republican and more likely to be registered with no party preference.

Compared to other age groups, they’re more willing to pay higher taxes for a state government that provides more services, more likely to view immigrants as a benefit to California and show stronger support for state efforts to combat climate change.

Millennials are also more supportive of the November ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana, extend taxes to fund education and increase the tobacco tax.

In the presidential race, all but the oldest voters in California back Clinton over Trump, but the margin among millennials is smaller than among Gen Xers (ages 35 to 51) and baby boomers (ages 52 to 70). Support for Johnson and Stein is highest among millennials.

A detailed report released this week by Common Cause focused on obstacles that are helping keep down voter turnout among millennials. The same day, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced a new partnership with California State University to increase student voter sign-ups and turnout, matching similar efforts in the UC and community college systems.

The PPIC analysis found that while millennials now make up about the same share of California’s population as baby boomers and Gen Xers, only about 53 percent of millennials are registered to vote, compared to 76 percent of baby boomers and 58 percent of Gen Xers. And only one-fourth of millennials are likely voters, compared to 61 percent of baby boomers and 39 percent of Gen Xers.

The result: Of California’s likely voters, baby boomers make up nearly 40 percent, Gen Xers nearly 30 percent and millennials less than 20 percent.

The oldest group of voters, those 71 to 88, have the highest voter registration rate at 87 percent and 73 percent are likely voters. It’s no wonder that these most reliable voters are the focus of candidates.

So despite all the love and attention they’re enjoying, millennials must actually vote to be taken as seriously as they want as a political force. For all the protests and social media posts, that’s the real test of how much they care about their causes.

By the numbers

A look at millennial voters, based on seven statewide surveys from September 2015 and July 2016:

  • Registered to vote, 53%; likely to vote, 24%
  • Democrat, 47%; decline to state, 32%; Republican, 15%
  • Liberal, 42%; moderate, 30%; conservative, 28%
  • Hillary Clinton, 39%; Donald Trump, 23%; Jill Stein, 16%; Gary Johnson, 8%
  • Income less than $40,000, 58%; $40,000-80,000, 23%; $80,000 or more, 19%
  • Latino, 42%; white, 28%; Asian American, 21%; African American, 6%
  • U.S. born, 68%; immigrant, 32%

Source: Public Policy Institute of California