New Harvard Poll Uncovers What Millennials Want from the Next President

Election 2016
Posted By Terri Williams on July 29, 2016 at 12:42 pm
New Harvard Poll Uncovers What Millennials Want from the Next President

The political divide among Americans is deep and wide—according to the Pew Research Center, voters are more polarized than ever. However, one segment of the country seems united in its political views—or at least its political agenda.

A recent poll of millennials, conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, reveals that this generation has clear-cut expectations for the next president. Asked to rank the issues that are most important to them, millennials responded as follows:

64% Improving the economy
39% Combating the spread of terrorism
34% Reducing inequality
31% Uniting the country
27% Dealing with immigration
23% Reducing the role of money in politics


When categorized by presidential candidate preferences, what millennials want breaks down like this:

Hillary Clinton voters 64% Improving the economy
57% Reducing inequality
30% Uniting the country
Donald Trump voters 69% Improving the economy
63% Combating the spread of terrorism
51% Dealing with immigration
Gary Johnson voters 64% Improving the economy
35% Reducing inequality in America
35% Uniting the country
Undecided voters 63% Improving the economy
35% Combating the spread of terrorism
31% Dealing with immigration


Good Call spoke with two millennial experts to discover the factors that shaped the top responses.

What millennials want: better economy

Britt Hysen, Editor-in-Chief of MiLLENNiAL Magazine, is a member of this generation and she certainly understands why improving the economy would be the top priority. Even though the unemployment rate is at a 10-year low, Hysen says millennials are among the millions of Americans still looking for work.

“While the economy may be showing improvement on the stock market, corporations are using automation, hiring overseas labor, and moving their headquarters to other countries to increase their profit margins,” explains Hysen, who believes that the regulations and trade deals of the past 20 years are making it difficult to find stable work.

Nancy Ahlrichs, a consultant with Flashpoint, a global leadership development firm, and also an expert on generational workforces, believes that millennials were hardest-hit during the recession. “Millennials suffered the most during the economic downtown because there were retirees, baby boomers, and veterans who still wanted to work, and employers were prioritizing older, more experienced workers who would not need training,” Ahlrichs says. As a result, she says, “There was a very high percentage of baby boomers and veterans who were working–even at McDonald’s and other places that typically hired high school and college-age employees.”

And even though the economy is recovering, Ahlrichs says a third of millennials live at home. “They may be unemployed, underemployed or they started working at a lower level of income than previously expected, but millennials are behind financially and in their life goals, so the economy matters to them a great deal,” she says.

The economy is a concern for most Americans, but millennials are at a distinct disadvantage for a variety of reasons. Hysen explains, “Student-loan debt, wage-depression, hour-restrictions, an older workforce pushing back retirement, technology phasing out traditional human labor, high taxes, and extremely high costs of living—these are serious economic issues that we currently face and are hindering our growth as adults.”

Hysen uses a practical example to explain her point. “A McDonald’s coffee was $1.85 last year and today it is $2.35, which represents a 33 percent increase – but whose wage increased by 33 percent?” She says that improving the economy is the top priority among millennials because this issue affects their livelihoods.

What millennials want: protection from terrorism

Whether they were children, teenagers, or young adults, Ahlrichs thinks the events of 9/11 were particularly traumatic to millennials because they were just starting to pay attention to the world. “They’ve never known a time when terrorism wasn’t a headline,” she says.

And because millennials have a sense of being global citizens—playing chess on their smartphones with opponents around the world; traveling and studying abroad; and living, studying and working with immigrants–when terrorism strikes in this country or around the around, Ahlrichs says they feel it more than less connected older Americans.

Reducing inequality

Inequality is a broad term that encompasses many of the issues that are important to Millennials.  “Since the Occupy movement in 2011, this idea that the 1 percent has 35.6 percent of all private wealth has made income inequality a hot topic of political conversation,” says Hysen, who believes that this disparity is pushing the middle class into a state of poverty.

“Easy access to student loans was a great way to sell Millennials on a better future, but in return, they are burdened with debt, possess degrees that barely qualify them for an entry level position, and face the highest level of unemployment of any generation,” says Hysen.

And Ahlrichs believes that Millennials – as the most egalitarian and diverse of the generations – are also more likely to champion the issues of racial, religious, gender, and other types of inequalities. As a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Ahlrichs notes a Millennial trend she’s observed during the job search and hiring process. “Often, they won’t check boxes on paperwork that asks them to declare racial background or national origin,” says Ahlrichs. “They’re likely to write in ‘human race,’ or leave the box blank.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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