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Guest Host: Cecilia Kang
In the 2016 presidential cycle, for the first time, millennials will be as big a voting bloc as the baby boomers. Their sheer numbers make this group, most often defined by people in their twenties and early thirties, a crucial demographic for the presidential candidates. In 2008 and 2012, young people turned out heavily for Barack Obama. This year, Democrats are hoping to sustain that millennial enthusiasm while Republicans see a chance to make up on lost ground. Guest host Cecilia Kang and her panel of millennials discuss what it will take to get young people to the polls and what they want from their next president.
- Dante Chinni data and political reporter, Wall Street Journal, contributor, NBC News director, American Communities Project, Michigan State University
- Juana Summers political editor, Mashable
- Catherine Rampell opinion columnist, The Washington Post
- Alex Smith national chairman, College Republican National Committee
MS CECILIA KANGThanks for joining us. I'm Cecilia Kang of the New York Times sitting in for Diane Rehm. Millennials are America's most racial diverse generation. They face high levels of unemployment and student debt and half choose not to identify with a political party. These are some of the characteristics the presidential candidates will be paying close attention to in the months to come.
MS CECILIA KANGTo discuss the millennial vote, I am joined in studio by Dante Chinni of the Wall Street Journal, Alex Smith of the College Republican National Committee. Joining us from New York City is Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post and joining us from on the ground in Charleston, South Carolina is Juana Summers of Mashable. Thank you all for being here.
MR. DANTE CHINNIThank you.
MS. CATHERINE RAMPELLThank you.
MS. JUANA SUMMERSGood to be here.
MS. ALEX SMITHThank you.
KANGWe'll be taking your comments, questions throughout the hour. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Dante Chinni, let's start with some basics. What is the age range of millennials, what are their political leanings and what defines them?
CHINNISo the age range of millennials can be a little tricky to pin down. Generally, we're talking about people born 1980 or after and you end up with a pretty big group of people if you do that. You're talking about people between 18 -- adults between and, like, their mid 30s.
KANG34, 35, um-hum.
CHINNIRight. What can we say about them? They are, without question, the most -- at least on record, as far as we know in history, the most diverse population we've had. And as an age cohort, they're about 57 percent white non Hispanic. That compares to the national average of about 62. They're 21 percent Hispanic. Again, that's much higher than the national average of about 17. They're about 13 percent African American, about 6 percent Asian. That's just the big kind of demographic makeup in terms of race and ethnicity.
CHINNIPolitically, they are, as you say, about 50 percent of them don't identify with either party, but when they vote, they tend to vote Democratic. In the last presidential election, 60 percent of them voted for Barack Obama. That was about nine points above his final margin of 51 percent.
KANGAnd they tend to be socially liberal, is that right?
CHINNIThey tend to be socially liberal. One of the things that really jumps out when you look at them is the issue that's kind of one of their big causes, I think, is gay rights, lesbian rights, LGBT. 73 percent of them believe in allowing gays and lesbians to marry. That's, again, about 20 points above the national average. That's a huge thing for them. When you look at other issues, it gets more complicated. Abortion, there, they kind of fall in line with the national figures of a very divided electorate.
CHINNIThey're slightly less pro-choice than Gen-X, but you know, that's one thing where all the age cohorts kind of sit in a smaller area. Gun rights, they're -- gun control, they're a little less supportive of gun control. And I think something that's really interesting about them is when you look at them and you want to brand them as things, they don't like to call themselves things, right? They don't like to call themselves environmentalists, though, you know, I think that they've spent most of their lives being indoctrinated with the same things that a lot of us have in the last 10 years about recycling and global warming.
CHINNIThat's much more a part, I think, of their mindset, but they don't call themselves -- they don't like to call themselves environmentalists. They don't like to call themselves much of anything. The one thing that is an exception is they do like to call themselves more than 50 percent pro gay rights. That's a big issue for them.
KANGYou know, labels and calling themselves, branding themselves is something that you, Catherine, have written quite a big about. You're written a lot about millennials and millennial voters and you say that this is a group that doesn't necessarily interpret political labels in the same way that older voters do. And you wrote a lot about how they don't have sort of the hang-ups on the word socialist, for example.
KANGThere have been a lot of other reports, you know, on the word feminism and how that's interpreted differently across age groups. Talk a little bit about that, please.
RAMPELLSo on socialism in particular, that's an interesting case. So for people over a certain age, people who grew up during the Cold War, for example, socialism is a dirty word. It's politically toxic, you know. If you look at polling data on would you ever vote for a black person, a Muslim, a woman, et cetera, socialism falls at the very bottom of that. It's the only category that Gallup asks about for which a majority of Americans say they would not consider voting for an otherwise qualified presidential candidate who happens to be socialist.
RAMPELLIf you look at the numbers for young people in other polling data about do they view socialism favorably or unfavorably, young people are actually the only demographic across all age groups, genders, races, geographic regions, whatever you can think of that view socialism more favorably than they view capitalism. And there have been several polls...
RAMPELL...that have come out in the last few months that suggest this. And I think it's partially that they don't have the same kinds of Soviet associations with it, you know. If young people -- I say they, but we, really, if we think about socialism, we're not thinking about, you know, autocrats who starve their own people or whatever comes to mind for, you know, people who grew up ducking and covering.
SUMMERSWe're thinking about Scandinavia, right? So where it seems like they kind of get along okay there. They're a relatively well-functioning democracies and people are happy and relatively well off. So I think in terms of that branding, it's very different. And it's not just the term itself, but the ideas behind the term that are more attractive to young people.
KANGYeah, explain that, please.
SUMMERSEspecially those who graduated from college in the great Recession or its immediate aftermath, when they saw capitalism as a great -- maybe evil is too strong of a word, but something that -- its excesses, I guess, perhaps to bring down the global financial system and put young people out of a job, you know, in a terrible position in terms of lifting themselves up by their own bootstraps. So they see capitalism as kind of the villain, in some way, in the last few years and maybe socialism is a viable alternative.
KANGYou know, the economy and, as you talk about, capitalism and that term is really a big thought in this particular group's mind. And Juana, on the ground there, you're talking to millennial voters. What are you hearing? What's most important to them? Is it economics? Is it student loans? What are you hearing?
SUMMERSWell, one of the big questions I like to ask any voter when I'm interviewing them here on the ground in South Carolina or elsewhere is what is the number one issue on your mind. What is the thing that seals the deal for you when you're trying to think about who you want to support for president? And the one thing that I keep hearing from millennials, and this goes across party lines, for all different ethnicities and background is, it's these pocketbook issues and particularly student debt is a huge one.
SUMMERSI was just at that big Bernie Sanders at Morehouse College in Atlanta, not too far away from South Carolina and I talked to maybe 10, 12 voters and each one had a personal story. It was either a rags to riches story of, you know, I grew up really poor and it's important to me to know that I'm going to be able to provide for a family in the future or it's, I have tens of thousands of dollars of student debt and I'm worried I'm not gonna have a job to be able to pay that off. And it's just been so fascinating to me that that is really, truly the number one driver.
SUMMERSThese are people -- these kids are disappointed, you know. And I shouldn't say they again. It's we. I've got my own student debt to worry about, too, as a young person in their late 20s. They're worried that they're not going to be able to provide for families in the future. They're worried that they're getting these great degrees, but is the job gonna be there to make sure they can actually pay for it. It's really concerning to them and while certainly there are a lot of social issues and other issues playing in, the economy is really at the forefront of everyone's mind and it's, frankly, scary, especially to a lot of these young millennials that aren't fully out in the workforce yet.
KANGAlex Smith, you are a young Republican and your party actually has struggled to capture young voters in the same way that Obama did in 2008 and 2012. There is an opportunity, though, no?
SMITHAbsolutely. And that's something we've been working on for the last three years or four years, really, at the College Republican National Committee. After the 2012 elections, we wanted to understand why my generation had voted against our candidate, arguably one of the most qualified we've ever nominated to be president. We wanted to understand, particularly in light of the fact that the Obama economy was one that was not kind to them in the previous four years.
SMITHSo we really looked at this carefully. We did a big research report called "Grand Old Party For a Brand New Generation" that's available on our website, CRNC.org. We did that in partnership with Kristen Soltis Anderson who is just an incredible millennial pollster and really understands our generation well.
KANGAnd what were the findings of that study?
SMITHAnd what we found was that young voters, I think, are incorrectly identified as liberals or they're sort of this misconception that they're all very liberal and they're not -- they can't be converted into anything else. What we actually found is that they embrace a lot of small government principles in their thinking. They know government's spending too much. They know that big entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are broken and need to be fixed.
SMITHWhat they don't do is they don't identify those principles with our party brand. And if you think about where the Republican party efforts have been over the last couple of years, it has not been on campus. It has not been online. It's been through direct mail. It's been through calls to landline telephones. Broadcast television, that's just not where our generation is getting their news and information from anymore.
KANGAnd are there any candidates, though, who are really appealing to the younger voters, at this point?
SMITHI would say largely millennial voters are tuned out of the election at this point. Not many of them tend to engage in the primary process, but of the ones that are, I think, we did a focus group recently in North Carolina of swing voters and what they had heard a lot about was Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and this was back in December of last year and they expressed sort of a frustration with the coverage of those individuals, saying that there were other candidates, like Bernie Sander and Marco Rubio, Ben Carson even, that they wanted to know more about.
SMITHAnd so I think that there are candidates that are speaking to this. If you'll remember, in Marco Rubio's speech after that big triumphant third place in Iowa, he mentioned student loans among that many things that he's working to fix in America's future.
KANGHe also just got an important endorsement from Nikki Haley in South Carolina.
SMITHHe absolutely did and I think that a lot of our young South Carolinians down there that are conservatives and Republicans, they really identify with Nikki Haley and Marco Rubio as the future of this party, a party that embraces diversity, diversity of thought, diversity of backgrounds and they're really excited, I think, by the idea of those two joining together.
KANGAlso fascinating. Coming up, more of our conversation on millennials and the 2016 campaign.
MS. CECILIA KANGWelcome back. I'm Cecilia Kang with The New York Times sitting in for Diane Rehm. I have Dante Chinni here in the studio. He is a data and political reporter at The Wall Street Journal. He's also contributor to NBC News and a director of the American Communities Project at Michigan State University. Also sitting beside me is Alex Smith, the national chairman for the College Republican National Committee. And joining us from New York City is Catherine Rampell, an opinion columnist for The Washington Post. And from South Carolina, the City of Charleston, is Juana Summers, the political editor for Mashable.
MS. CECILIA KANGDante, we started -- we left off talking about Republicans. How do you see it? Are Republicans still out of step and have they made any inroads?
CHINNIWell, I mean, they've got a long way to go. There was immediately, also, after the last election, a kind of forensic kind of look at what happened, taking apart what happened. And, you know, we've got to do better with Latinos. We've got to do better with -- on gay rights. These are things that, if we're going to attract younger voters. And, you know, look, it's a primary process. So, right now, they are running to the right. That's what happens, right? You run to the right in the primary and then you've got to run back to the center when you get to the general.
CHINNII do think, look, I think that it's -- Alex is right. Millennials aren't engaged yet. A lot of them aren't. I mean, Bernie Sanders' voters are but a lot of them aren't. And that may be a good thing for the GOP right now. Because some of the things being said, if you were to tune into some of these debates, would hurt you...
CHINNI...with 18- to 29-year-olds, 18- to 34-year-olds, however you want to define it, when we get to the fall. The benefit is maybe they're not tuned in yet. Look, I think, gay marriage is going to be a real tough issue.
CHINNIIt's going to be a really tough issue for them. Because this is a defining issue for this generation because it's seen as an equality issue and it's a fairness issue.
CHINNIAnd for -- the GOP is going to have to find some way to work its way around that. And I think, unless they do, they're going to bump in -- or find some way to smooth it over or take off some of the rough edges on it, they're going to have a hard time with this group.
KANGYou were also talking during the break that millennials don't necessarily think of religion or they don't identify strongly with religion in their voting and their thinking.
KANGRight. And that's a real -- and, again, that is a challenge for the GOP, which does like to tie itself much more to faith and family. And especially, I mean, down in South Carolina -- I was there this weekend -- you hear a lot of that because that's the base down there. That's the GOP base. But when you look at millennials, much less likely -- much more likely to fall in this category we call nones, N-O-N-E-S, people who aren't affiliated with any religion at all.
CHINNIAnd 39, 40 percent say they either don't believe in God or are really unsure about God. That's, you know, that's a generation that's moving away from religion. Now, they're young. And who knows? That could change as they get older. But where they sit right now, they're not big believers. They're not big religious -- they're not big churchgoers. And that's a problem for the GOP, I think.
KANGSo far, the story of young voters, Catherine, in the presidential race, has been about Bernie Sanders. Or at least we hear so much about that. Why do you think he has had so much success and actually will it continue? It is early on.
RAMPELLI think that there are multiple reasons why he's had so much success. Some of it is what I was talking about earlier, that young people are actually, you know, they view socialism pretty favorably. It's not a mark against him. In fact, if anything, it's a feature not a bug. And the specific proposals that he's talking about, emphasizing economic inequality, college for all. You know, student debt, as we were discussing before, is a big issue amongst this group. These are things that appeal to them, that appeal to their pocketbooks, that I think many young people feel like they've been ignored for a long time, that politicians have just sort of written them off and so have also written off their issues.
RAMPELLSo I think part of it is substantive. I think part of it is also more kind of stylistic. I think that there's an appeal about Bernie Sanders that's true amongst many demographics, but especially young people, because he's kind of like unkempt and disheveled and unpolished. You know, he has this...
RAMPELL...very unpolished Brooklyn accent.
KANGAnd that's appealing?
RAMPELLI think that's appealing. You know, it's this authenticity perspective that everybody talks about. And I think it's especially appealing to young people, especially today, because in the age of social media there's so much kind of like brand management and image consciousness and people feeling like they need to be camera-ready at all times because, you know, a photo might end up on social media. And I think young people are very conscious of this and resentful of it as well, that they -- that there's -- they see their friends kind of always preening and trying to look perfect all the time. And then when you see Bernie Sanders, who's not camera-ready, even when he's on camera, and has the wild hair, it's refreshing, right?
RAMPELLIt's this, like, you know, this #iwokeuplikethis? You know, it's like Bernie Sanders woke up like this.
KANGIt's pretty much perfect for him.
RAMPELLYeah. And I think that, like I said, I think it's appealing to voters in general, who are wary of overly scripted politicians, but especially to young people because they're conscious of this image management from a very young age. And I would add, as an aside, that is a kind of authenticity that's kind of off-limits to female politicians, not just ones with Hillary's baggage. I mean, Hillary has been accused of being overly scripted basically her entire political career and even as a, you know, before she was actually running for office herself, when she was just the wife of a politician at some point.
RAMPELLSo I think that that sharp contrast of Hillary Clinton always, you know, supposedly focus-grouping her hair and caring so much about what her image looks like and choosing her words so carefully, while I think it's necessitated by the scrutiny that's applied to female politicians, I think that contrast with Bernie's, you know, visual and the way he talks is very compelling to voters who are seeking out authenticity.
KANGI know, it's fascinating. I want to read an email from Tom in Takoma Park, Md., along these lines. As a 23-old -- three-year -- idealist against U.S. intervention in foreign wars, I cast my first presidential vote in 1972 for Democratic Senator George McGovern, the Bernie of his day. He won one state. Can millennials rise above voting their passion and vote for someone who can actually win? Juana, what do you think?
SUMMERSI think it's a less a question of whether or not millennials can vote for somebody who can actually win and whether or not we actually get millennials out to vote on election day.
KANGOh, yeah. Absolutely.
SUMMERSMillennials, historically, are the flakiest group of voters, the most reliable segment, particularly of the Democratic base, since we're talking about Bernie Sanders here, as those voters over age 45 and age 50. Most millennials, while there's a lot of passion and I certainly see young people on the ground here in South Carolina and elsewhere packing these rallies for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it's the question of will they get out to the polls?
SUMMERSI was looking yesterday at this poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics about a month ago. Just 20 percent of the people that they talked to considered themselves politically active. And, as you know, caucuses and primaries in these early states are particularly filled with die-hard activists. So while you see these stunning numbers for Bernie Sanders -- he took, what is it, 80 percent both in Iowa and New Hampshire of voters between the ages of 18 to 29, according to exit polls -- the question is, will that passion, will it actually continue to turn out?
SUMMERSAnd I think that is really key to whether or not Bernie Sanders can actually rise, particularly as we look towards contests here in South Carolina and in Nevada, where the electorate is much more diverse, not necessarily his natural base, and really does favor Hillary Clinton.
KANGThis is so early on. This is a big group but will they turn out? Alex.
SMITHSo I want to push back a little bit on that, because if you look at the last presidential election, young voters were big enough and strong enough to decide the whole course of the presidential election. Look at the national popular vote, look at the statewide vote in key places like Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, for example, and you see that Mitt Romney lost -- or the deficit between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama nationwide or statewide was far eclipsed by his losses with 18- to 29-year-olds in those same places. So young voters decided the last presidential election and they're on track to do it again.
SMITHThe young vote increases by one percentage point as a share of the national electorate every presidential election since 2000. It started off at 16 percent of the electorate in 2000, went to 19 percent in 2012. With that kind of trajectory, we can expect that it's going to be at 20 percent in 2016. So, you know, young voters did decide the presidential election. That's a reality that my party has to grapple with and something that, you know, obviously why we've been working so hard to educate our candidates and educate our party about better strategies to reach this group. But I think that millennials are going to play a huge role in this election.
CHINNII mean, I think they could. The one thing I would say is, when you go through those -- because it is a really good point, I've looked at those numbers, too. It does -- it's increased since 2000. But there were different issues going on. Remember, every election takes place in its own kind of, you know, ecosphere, right?
CHINNIAnd 2004 was the Iraq election. So a lot of young voters turned out for that because they were opposed to the war. 2008 was the chance to vote for the first African-American president in U.S. history. And, look, it was truly was a moment in American politics where people wanted to be a part of that. It really, you know, it was like, this is history. I'm going to go be a part of it. The 2012 number, I think, is impressive. That is a bump up. I do think though that, look, if we end up with like -- say we end up with Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton even versus Marco Rubio, I don't know if the same impetus is going to be there to get out and vote.
CHINNIParticularly, look, one of the things that really drove those numbers -- the Hispanic vote. That was -- that's a big part of what's going on. Like half of all eligible Hispanics to vote are in this millennial group.
CHINNISo that's a big part of what's going on. And the African-American vote. Barack Obama's not on the ticket this time or he will not be on the ticket this time. I wonder what's going to happen with the African-American vote. And I'm curious to see what happens with the Hispanic vote, I'm curious to see the role...
KANGParticularly in Nevada.
CHINNIYeah. Absolutely in Nevada. And the other thing to also keep in mind about the Hispanic vote is, there are lots of different kinds of Hispanics. We forget this all the time. We talk about Hispanics, as if they're just like this big like, you know, blob. And they're not. Like some Hispanics are Puerto Rican. Some Hispanics are Cuban. Some Hispanics are Mexicans, of those heritages. And that leads to very different voting patterns. I mean that's the story of Florida. Hispanics in Florida are -- well, less and less so -- but the large portion of them have always been Cuban. Cuban's tend to vote Republican. All this is changing over time. They vote less Republican. They're less part of the population. Just all things to keep in mind about as we move forward.
KANGAnd, Catherine, any thoughts about whether they'll turn out?
RAMPELLThe numbers from 2012 were -- excuse me, 2014, the last mid-term election, were abysmal.
RAMPELLI mean, mid-term elections always have much lower turnout...
RAMPELL...than presidential elections. But for young people, they were like the lowest on record, as I recall, I think for people under the age of 30. And so that does not bode well. I mean, obviously things have changed in the last couple of years. Bernie Sanders says that he's going to ignite a political revolution. And the way that he'll win is that he'll bring people out to the polls who have been traditionally -- have traditionally felt sort of disenfranchised. Whether they're young people or minorities or, you know, low-income people, people who generally vote in lower numbers. So far, we haven't seen that borne out in the data, in the two states that have actually had a caucus or a primary.
RAMPELLSo, you know, I'm not super optimistic that we're going to see some big turnaround and that young people are suddenly going to flood the polls.
KANGI'm Cecilia Kang with The New York Times. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850. Or send an email to email@example.com. Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet, please. Alex, you wanted to follow up on that.
SMITHJust about the mid-term elections in 2014, as a share of the national electorate, or at least as the average across all of the states, the youth vote actually increased. It hovered around 11 or 12 percent from 2002, went to 13 percent in 2014. If you look at some of our close races, in states where we had competitive senate races, competitive gubernatorial races, a lot of those came down to just a couple of points. And in places where the youth vote -- where the Republican was able to hold the youth vote at above 40 percent, were usually places where they prevailed.
SMITHWe did a lot of work in swing states and states that were important in the last election. We also note that some of our candidates really made an effort to reach out to the young voters in their states and, you know, of course, with gubernatorial races we're not so much focused on what's maybe popular nationally but focused on state issues that are affecting students and state schools and other sort of issues. So I think that millennials did participate more in the 2014 elections. And they were very engaged, particularly on the issue of Obamacare, which is something that we're finding in our focus groups as well.
KANGJuana, you're down in South Carolina talking to millennials and specifically black millennials. What are you hearing about this group? And how is this group different? Will we see some difference from what we saw in New Hampshire and Iowa?
SUMMERSSo one of the things that I've been really fascinated by, the cycle -- and Dante hit on this a little bit -- is, while we tend to think of Hispanic voters as this big blob, I also think we fall into this, particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle, thinking of Democratic voters and Democratic millennials kind of the same way. And the data just doesn't bear that out.
SUMMERSNBC News put out a weekly tracking poll and it showed that, while white millennials overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders, things are a lot less unsettled when it comes to black millennials. 64 percent support Hillary Clinton and 25 percent support Bernie Sanders. And I think that's what makes South Carolina so interesting when we talk to black millennials. I've spent about a week here talking to a number of them. And there's a lot of love for Hillary Clinton here among some young black voters, who call back to her husband's legacy, what he's done for black voters, as well as remember her time fondly in the Senate. And there's some wariness about Bernie Sanders, too.
SUMMERSIt's been very interesting talking to people. I talked to a lot of undecided voters and the question that they've really hit on is this question of feasibility. They like a lot of what Bernie Sanders says. They like a lot of Hillary Clinton's history. But who can actually get it done? And one of the big distinctions that a woman made to me last night is that, you have Bernie Sanders. He's talking about a political revolution. For many of the things that he's talking about doing and many of the policies that he espouses, you'd have to essentially shake up traditional Washington.
SUMMERSHillary Clinton is talking about what she would do within an established system, with Washington is -- as it is today. And that's -- and this woman told me, she's like, that's what's really making my difference. Do I vote out of passion? Do I vote with my heart? Or do I vote with my head and vote for the person who could probably deal with things as they are right now. And so I think that here in South Carolina, and Nevada if we talk about Latino voters, it will be really fascinating to see how these diverse groups break, as opposed to Iowa and New Hampshire which are overwhelmingly white electorates.
SUMMERSWe have not really seen how voters of color are going to play out on the Democratic side of the aisle, or on the Republican side of the aisle, to Alex's point as well.
CHINNII was just looking at numbers in this last week. African-American students -- so Census actually has data on this -- college or graduate school, there are in the State of Iowa, 10,000 African-American college students, graduate school and undergrad. There are more than 100,000 in South Carolina.
CHINNISo it's just like -- it's a radically different millennial, like, student population. And I really do think that's going to end up being a really big issue in terms of how the vote shakes out down there.
KANGYou know, Juana, Sanders meanwhile is campaigning with the daughter of Eric Gardner, who is also a millennial herself. Is that making any sort of inroads for him in South Carolina?
SUMMERSYou know, I went to the first event where Erica Gardner campaigned with Bernie Sanders at the University of South Carolina. It was a small event, maybe 400-some-odd people there. And she came -- she's also starred in a very powerful ad for him and kind of talks...
SUMMERS...and kind of talks -- and she was talking about Bernie Sanders. He's a protestor. I know that he believes what he says. I think that it certainly got some people that I've talked to kind of to perk up and listen. Because her father's death, I mean, we've all seen the heart-wrenching video of the death of Eric Gardner on TV, I can't breathe, which became one of the most quoted phrases of the last few years and is real -- and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. But the question is -- it gets people to take a listen, maybe take notice. But I'm just not sure, when I talk to undecided voters, whether or not it's actually going to seal the deal and make their vote.
SUMMERSBy contrast, you saw Hillary Clinton campaigning with the mother of Sandra Bland in Chicago...
SUMMERS...making some similar appeals. And it's just been really interesting to see how these two Democrats are really harnessing the power of these black families that have been the victims of, frankly, high-profile tragedies that have really shaken the black community to their core, in order to make their case to black voters. I think it shows just how important the black vote will be for both of these campaigns. Historically, the black vote has played towards Clinton. It'll be interesting to see if Sanders can kind of eke out any gains there. And so far, in South Carolina, he is trailing dramatically.
KANGComing up, your calls and questions. Please stay tuned.
KANGWelcome back. I'm Cecilia Kang with the New York Times sitting in for Diane Rehm. I am joined by Dante Chinni a data and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, Alex Smith the national chairperson for the College Republican National Committee. Catherine Rampell from New York City, an opinion columnist for The Washington Post. And Juana Summers, a political editor for Mashable down in Charleston, South Carolina. We have an email from Whitney, and she says, it strikes me there's a huge difference between my millennial cousins, who are an urban Northeast
KANGAnd well educated and more distant millennial cousins of mine who are in rural areas and not college educated. They have starkly different world views and no common ground. Can your guests address this? Dante.
CHINNIYeah, this is what I spend a lot of time looking at, actually, at the American Communities Project. How different peoples' views are, depending on what community they live in. So I looked at this yesterday, out of curiosity. About 86 percent of millennials live in what we'd call urban areas. So metropolitan areas.
CHINNISo it's a large number. It's high for every group. Look, most people in America live in big cities or metropolitan areas. But there is, without question, when you go out to rural places, there is a definite, there is a definite difference of opinion. I mean, a lot of these issues about religion are going to look different when you get out to rural communities, which tend to have much more of a religious background. And they're going to be more conservative. It's -- I think that's definitely, I think that's a really good point.
CHINNIThere are some things that overlap all the communities, though. Because I go out to really rural places and talk to people about what's going on, and on the small community in Iowa, Sioux City, Iowa, which is in the Northwest corner of the state. And talking to the principle there, or the people at the schools, talking about how everybody -- they all are completely dialed in to technology. They all have smart phones.
KANGThey all have their phones. They're totally digital.
CHINNIThey all have smart phones, even out, when you get out into the middle of rural Iowa. And they're always, they're trying to hack into the school system as much as the -- as they're trying to do that in big cities. There's some stuff that does kind of transcend all this. But I think it's true. There is -- that's something to keep in mind. There's a difference between rural and urban in the United States. I think, honestly, that's the sharpest divide in the United States between rural and urban America.
KANGAre there overlapping issues though? When you talked about LGBT issues, for example, and other social issues, do they overlap?
CHINNISo, if -- what it is is especially when you get out to rural communities, now, there's no polling data on this. You really have to slice and dice a little differently to pull out small rural communities and look at this. But look, they are more supportive of LGBT rights than their parents out in those rural communities, but much less supportive than they would be, say, in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago.
KANGI have -- we have a call. Let's take a call from Chelsea in Johnson City, Tennessee. Hello Chelsea. You're on the air.
CHELSEAHi. Thanks for having me.
CHELSEASo, I just have a question for Alex Smith. And I'm calling from one of the more rural areas in Tennessee and to go back to the question that was just discussed before, there's just a lack of higher education that's available to people in these areas because of their income. My question is, so like, as a millennial, I don't see any appeal to supporting the GOP. Bernie's offering things like free education and healthcare for all Americans and for future Americans. What is the GOP gonna offer to us that's similar? Why should I support them?
SMITHWell, this is actually one of the things that I encourage our party to talk about all of the time, because we actually do have some great, free market based alternatives that we just never seem to tout. This has especially been true in our states, where you see programs like former Governor Rick Perry in Texas and Governor Scott Walker and other Governors have implemented where, you know, you have the 10,000 dollar Bachelor's Degree. You have opportunities to reduce tuition costs by participating in certain programs.
SMITHSchools are held to certain standards based on their graduation and employment rates after graduation. And so, there are some great things going on in our states about this, but I agree, at a national level, student loans and higher education has to be a part of the conversation and you really do see, you know, candidates starting to talk about this. Everyone from Marco Rubio to Donald Trump has mentioned student loans as an issue that they're going to tackle.
SMITHAnd so, I think that they're really starting to hear the concerns. Not only of students in America, but their middle class families who can no longer afford to send them to school.
KANGWe have another call from Ellie in Dallas, Texas. Hello Ellie, you're on the air.
ELLIEHi. Thanks for having me on.
ELLIEI am considered a millennial and I'd like to comment on how the media talks about us. First of all, I'm really glad that you all are including millennials in the conversation right now. I feel like this is one of the more positive conversations I've heard about us.
ELLIEYour guests have commented on this a little bit. But frequently, it seems like those in the media talk about us as a monolith, and not only that, there seems to be a lot of negative connotations associated with us. Like, we're too dependent on technology (unintelligible) too many things from society, that we're entitled and politically ambivalent. There's always a lot of talk about them and it feels isolationary, and I think causes some disillusionment. We're the next up and coming demographic group and it would be nice if this us versus them negative rhetoric could be countered by including us more in these conversations. Since we are the next generation that will shape our society and government.
KANGThank you, Ellie. Catherine, you've written so much about millennials. In fact, you've defended your generation, so please respond to Ellie.
RAMPELLYes. I write a lot about kids these days and kids these days tropes and how many of them are perennial, going back to like the ancient Greeks. You know, kids today don't respect their elders and they're lazy and entitled.
KANGThis is not new in other words.
RAMPELLThis is not new. Gen Xers heard similar accusations.
RAMPELLBoomers heard similar accusations when they were young. You know, I'm a musical theater nerd and there's this great song from "Bye Bye Birdie." It's "Kids, What's the Matter With Kids Today?" I encourage everyone to listen to it. You know, it is as applicable today.
KANGNow that is cross generational, Catherine. Thank you.
RAMPELLYes, exactly. Applicable today as it was back then. And I do agree that many of these stereotypes and sort of slurs against young people does not do much to promote political or social cohesion. Especially when, I think, a lot of young people feel like they, we have been not only maligned, but somewhat victimized. Not just with words, but by the economy that we graduated into. You know, in addition to the usual tropes about being entitled and self-centered, you know, discussion about our immaturity comes up a lot because we're taking longer to buy homes.
RAMPELLAnd get married and move out of our parents' basements and things like that. And many of those milestones are being put off because of our economic circumstances. I mean, I don't mean to discount the role that norms, social norms play as well. But if you look at poll data among young people about, do you want to get married, do you want to own your own home? I'm sure if you ask them, would you like to live with your parents at age 28, people would probably say no. They're not there because they want to be, you know, parasites to their boomer parents. But, and so, but the national narrative is that, no, young people just refuse to grow up.
RAMPELLAnd I think as a result, a lot of young people are very annoyed and resentful of this. And that might be part of the reason why so many of us kind of withdraw from these historical institutions that have been a form of social cohesion. Like religious institutions or, you know, sort of the whole bowling alone suite of social institutions that help hold us together. So I think that this, I completely agree with this caller that it's not productive to talk about younger people as if we're some alien species that's here to, you know, to basically suck the life blood out of our elders.
RAMPELLEspecially when, frankly, our tax dollars are paying for their entitlements. Right? So, I think that there's a lot of resentment among young people about this. And it's one reason, perhaps, why we're more disengaged and we're more suspicious of our political leadership.
KANGWell, you've convinced me. You know, one of the more fascinating, sort of, revelations that's come so far from the election cycle is the divide between millennial women and older female voters. And it was so interesting to see how Secretary Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem's comments about voting and how women should, in a very strong tone, come out for Hillary, and if you don't, you are in some way betraying your gender. And Juana, I'm wondering what you're hearing on the ground and how is that translating to younger women?
SUMMERSYeah, so first of all, with a caveat, I actually wrote a pretty forceful op-ed piece over at Mashable about Gloria Steinem's comments on the saying that though young women are flocking to Bernie Sanders because the boys are with Bernie, which I found, frankly patronizing and insulting. But what I've been hearing on the ground, when I talk to young women on the Democratic side of the aisle, some undecided, some supporting Sanders, is that for many, especially the youngest women, they don't have the questions I do of will I ever see -- or that my mom does, will you ever see a female President in their lifetime?
SUMMERSThey know it's going to happen. They live in the era of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren on the Hill. They know that one day, there will be a female President, whereas, for older women, especially those over 50, over 60, will they see it in their lifetime is a different question. One women put it to me really well. I want to be able to vote for the first female President, but I want to vote for somebody that I'm 100 percent behind. I don't want it to be someone I'm picking just because they're a woman. I want to support their ideals. I want to support their policies.
SUMMERSAnd I think that's where this divide comes in. There is no doubt, among these women, that Secretary Clinton has been a forceful leader. She has had great accomplishments, both as First Lady and in her roles of government. But they don't like her policies, some of these women. They want to be able to support someone that they can 100 percent get behind and she's just not that person. And they resent the idea that they should have to vote for anyone, just based on their gender, which frankly, as a young female voter, so do I.
KANGAlex, what are you seeing?
SMITHWell, first of all, as a Republican, it's been incredibly exciting to watch this cannibalistic exercise on the left of, you know, the Bernie Sanders supporters versus the Hillary supporters on the question of gender. Particularly because we feel like the left has played into identity politics for so long, and gender politics, in particular. You know, playing off of what's already been said, I absolutely agree. This is a generation that considers voting for someone on the basis of his or her gender as morally objectionable as voting against them for that same reason. So, that's why this argument didn't work.
SMITHAnd I think it speaks to a larger, or a larger trait of the millennial generation, which is this rejection of conformity. No one has ever told this generation what to do, how to learn, how to shop, how to communicate with each other. This is a generation that works from the bottom up and works in open systems to create their own culture that empowers their own choices. So, when you have these older women coming down and saying you have to vote this way because of something, that's something that they're going to reject.
SMITHAnd that's where I see a huge opportunity for our party. Because Democratic policies ultimately lead to that kind of conformity and it's something that is just antithetical with the way that they live their lives as consumers and just as people.
KANGI'm Cecilia Kang. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have an email from Hailey, and she writes, why are people so hard on millennials? We are all hit so hard with student debt, the banks and bailout and the auto industry, but no one cares about us. The 2016 election would be a total sham if Bernie Sanders does not win. He is the only candidate that cares about everyone. I haven't even thought about starting a family because I can't afford it. I have an aviation management degree and I can't get a job in my field.
KANGNow, that's pretty astounding. I'm bouncing from job to job just to make ends meet. I will be voting in the primary, but if Bernie isn't on the ballot for the general, what is the point? That's so interesting. How do you think this is going to shake out going forward towards the general? Dante.
CHINNIWell, I mean, I'm curious to see how the Democrats, if he doesn't get the nomination, and he may or may not, if he doesn't get the nomination, I'm curious to see how the Democrats employ him on the campaign trail. Which would be interesting to me. Will he go out and speak for Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination. And remember, Barack Obama's gonna be out there eventually. So, things feel differently now than they may feel three, four months from now. That's one thing I'd say.
CHINNIBut one thing I'd say to the emailer is, like, I was a member of cynical, disassociated Generation X and how horrible we were and it's just, oh my God, we don't care about anything. What's wrong with us?
KANGKids these days.
CHINNIYeah, kids these days. This stuff all changes. The one thing I will say for this generation, though, it's been very difficult, is look, a lot of them have graduated in the middle of a recession. Which is no fun, an awful recession. And the other thing is they tend to, these, a lot of the people we're talking about who do want to move into cities, it's incredibly difficult to do right now. They've actually done this -- cities have become much more expensive to live in. Real estate values have gone through the roof. If you want to live in a city, you're going to pay a ton for rent.
CHINNIIf you want to live in a nice place. And they've kind of -- they want to go into the cities because the cities have kind of blossomed, and it's become very difficult for them in a lot of different ways economically.
KANGWe have another -- let's take a call from Nathan in Haymarket, Virginia. Hello Nathan, you're on the air. Hi.
NATHANHi, how are you?
KANGVery well, thank you.
NATHANGreat. So, millennials and new Americans, you know, recent migrants who are mostly young people, are going to live in a very economy than older Americans. Many of them will work for themselves as part of what has been called the gig economy. And I've worked in that, both as a consultant and as an Uber driver. As young entrepreneurs and new Americans, what are millennials attitudes towards the complicated tax codes and the burdensome regulations that discourage people from working for themselves? And their attitude towards the politics of migration.
NATHANIn particular, I'd like to know what millennials think about Ben Carson's flat tax plan and his plan for deregulation.
KANGThank you, Nathan. Alex.
SMITHWell, you know, I just want to say about the positive traits of this generation, one of the things that hasn't been mentioned so far is that this is the most entrepreneurial generation that we've seen in a long time. I mean, think about the titans of Silicon Valley and the advances that have been made in technology. That's been made largely through the work of millennials who have gotten into these different areas and have fundamentally changed the way our economy works. So, I agree that young people are incredibly entrepreneurial and looking for ways to ease the burden of regulation and taxes on that.
SMITHHere's a great example of where our party didn't show up and why we lost the 2012 elections. If you will recall, MTV did a special with the Presidential candidates. President Obama and Mitt Romney were invited. Only President Obama attended and they asked a question, they said, you know, what would you do to relieve the burden on crowd funding exercises that are sort of trapped up in regulation? And you know, for us, Republicans sitting at home, we thought that he wouldn't have an answer to that. Instead, he cited the jobs bill that had been passed by the Republican Congress that did indeed remove those hurdles for young people trying to crowd fund projects.
SMITHBut that was our bill and we didn't show up to talk about it. So that's an example where I think millennials are hungry for an alternative. They want to hear what we have to say about it. But we need to show up and deliver that message to them.
KANGJuana, real fast, let's talk about how millennials are actually getting their news about the election. About their candidates and the information about them. And have the candidates tried to find them there?
SUMMERSAbsolutely, and I think Alex may have hinted at this earlier, but this is a generation that, in a lot of ways, isn't going to these traditional news sources. Unfortunately, they're not picking up a lot of the newspapers or anything like that, but our generation is active on Snapchat and on Twitter and on social media. And there's an expectation among young voters that I talk to, even those that are not in these crucial early primary states, they want to hear directly from the candidates.
SUMMERSThey want them coming into their smartphones or their tablets. They want to be able to have that one on one engagement. And I think we've seen the campaigns try to attack that in different ways, participating in -- you saw recently, President Obama, even, was on Fusion Snapchat. You saw Bernie Sanders picking up and doing Snapchat filters in some of these early states. These candidates are realizing how important it is -- and we saw this some in 2008 and 2012 too, to make an end run around traditional media and take these new opportunities to go directly to young voters.
SUMMERSAnd I think that, as these elections go on, young folks like three of the four of us, I guess, will have that continued expectation of being able to get that kind of access and to get the information for emerging platforms rather than the traditional channels of news.
KANGJuana Summers of Mashable, Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post, Alex Smith of the College Republican National Committee and Dante Chinni of the Wall Street Journal. I'm Cecilia Kang sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you so much for listening.
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