August 26, 2012
By Melissa Bynes Brooks
Millennial voters are at a crossroads laden with a series of economic, social, and cultural issues to consider as they contemplate whether to vote for President Obama or Mitt Romney on Election Day.
More than three-quarters (76%) say jobs and unemployment represent critical issues facing the country according to a 2012 Millennial Values Survey conducted jointly by Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Even though young people have been impacted the most during the recession, they remain the most optimistic about the recovery of the economy which has added jobs in a slower than desired pace.
From April to July 2012, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old rose 2.1 million to 19.5 million, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in August. This year, the share of young people employed in July was 50.2 percent. The number of unemployed youth in July 2012 was 4.0 million, a slight decrease from 4.1 million a year ago. The youth unemployment rate was 17.1 percent in July 2012. The unemployment rate for young men was 17.9 percent, in July 2012, and the rate for women was 16.2 percent. The jobless rate for whites was 14.9 percent, compared with 28.6 percent for blacks, 14.4 percent for Asians, and 18.5 percent for Hispanics.
The impact of past events on present circumstances has never been more apparent. Approximately 7.5 million jobs were lost in the eighteen months from the beginning of 2008 through the middle of 2009. This period was fully shaped by the Bush economic agenda. The takeaway, this is the same agenda Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are campaigning on. Romney-Ryan would like to reinstate the same tax cuts and deregulation policies that resulted in the economic crisis. Romney-Ryan would also cut spending on roads, highways, and other physical infrastructure which would lower output in ways similar to the effects of cuts in private capital investment.
Over the most recent 18 months of the Obama administration, approximately 2.8 million jobs have been added. The average monthly job loss before President Obama’s policies took effect was 417,000. Over the last year-and-a-half, the average monthly job gain has been 155,000. When Congress failed to pass the American Jobs Act, President Obama announced a new initiative called Summer Jobs+ in January 2012. The Federal government and private sector came together to commit to creating nearly 180,000 employment opportunities for low-income youth in the summer of 2012, with a goal of reaching 250,000 employment opportunities by the start of summer. At least 100,000 were for placements in paid jobs and internships.
A majority of Milennials report that education (54%) is another critical issue facing the nation. President Obama signed an overhaul of the student loan program into law, increased funding for Pell Grants and allowed for direct student loans while preventing student loan interest rates from doubling. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invested heavily in education both as a way to provide jobs and lay the foundation for long-term prosperity. The Act provides $5 billion in competitive funds to spur innovation and chart ambitious reform to close the achievement gap and includes over $30 billion addressing college affordability and improving access to higher education.
Mitt Romney proposes tightening eligibility requirements for federal student financial aid and decreased funding for Pell grants. This may present a problem for lower income families by limiting their access to affordable higher education. He also opposes gainful employment regulations which help to prevent students from increasing their student debt while working towards degrees issued by sub-par schools. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Paul Ryan’s budget plan to cut federal spending for education such as loans or grants may lower productivity by reducing people skills.
Only 1-in-5 Milennials think social issues like abortion (22%) or same-sex marriage (22%) are critical issues. 53% think abortion should be legal, 43% do not, while 35% don’t know. One point of consideration is that the next president of the United States may have an opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice. This will be of particular interest for voters with concerns regarding women’s reproductive rights and the future of Roe v Wade. In 1973 the United States Supreme Court ruled that a right of privacy was protected by the Fourteenth Amendment under the Constitution and guaranteed a woman’s right to have an abortion under certain circumstances. Voters will determine whether to elect Obama- Biden who supports a woman’s right to choose or to elect Romney- Ryan, a team at odds on the issue. Romney opposes abortion with an exception for cases of rape, incest and risk to the mother’s life while Ryan objects to abortion in all circumstances except when the mother’s life is at risk. Paul Ryan, if he’s vice president, will literally be a heartbeat away from being the president so this makes his perspective relevant.
Access to affordable and preventive healthcare is important. Millennials broadly favored proposals that all Americans have insurance, that the government provides help for those unable to afford it, and supported a government health insurance plan to compete with private plans. A Pew Research Center poll taken via landlines and cellphones on September 22 through October 4, 2011 reflected that 56% of Millennials do not feel the government is doing enough for elderly Americans. They also feel more should be done to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
Millenials have an innate sense for tolerance and treating others fairly irrespective of class, race, gender, or sexual orientation and are more racially and ethnically diverse. Only 59% are white non-Hispanic. They are more open-minded than previous generations, suggests an analysis of studies by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, part of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. They are also more inclined to support President Obama’s position of prosecutorial discretion when confronting illegal immigration and agree that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This generation is by no means provincial and there will be consequences, whatever the presidential choice.
Melissa Bynes Brooks is the editor of BrooksSleepReview.
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