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October 4, 2011

Young Voters and the 2012 Election: Will College Students Impact the 2012 Election and America's Future

St. Francis College and the Manhattan Institute co-hosted the forum Young Voters and the 2012 Election featuring Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, authors of Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America on October 4 in the College’s Founders Hall. Winograd and Hais explored the ideology of the millennial generation and their increasing political influence, comparing Millennials to older generations, and examining their possible impact on the 2012 presidential election.

Fred Siegel, moderator of the discussion and Scholar in Residence at St. Francis College said, “in this next election the millennial generation could grow to as much as a quarter of the electorate.”

Hais predicts that the 2012 presidential race will be a landmark election in which there will be a debate over the vision for America and civic ethos, redefining the scope and purpose of government.

Winograd and Hais also compared Millennials to the older generations, describing them as a win-win group that is team oriented, liberal, favorable towards government regulation of business, and more likely to support multilateralism.

Also on the panel, Elaine Kamarck, lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, explained that there is a common misconception that young voters and minorities are two separate groups that significantly influence election outcomes. Kamarck argued that a significant percentage of young voters are minorities and in fact, these two groups are one in the same. In addition, she points out that even this combined grouping is not large enough to sway an election.

Henry Olsen, Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute, who has written articles on the changing shape of the electorate echoed Kamarck’s comments offering specific racial breakdowns of voting Millennials (17% were Hispanic, 20% were black). Oslen said those numbers are double the percentage of Hispanics and blacks who voted from other age groups and added 1% to 2% to Barack Obama’s vote total and a 3% to 4% difference in the overall balloting. Olsen says while those totals could play a part in a very close race, “it is not decisive or transformational.”

The panel also discussed the impact of the current economic climate, technology, interracial marriages and religion on the voting decisions of the Millennial Generation.

Previously, Winograd and Hais had predicted that the largest generation in American history, those born between 1982 and 2003, would shape the 2008 elections. They say this is precisely what happened as Obama attracted a majority of young voters and established a definite lead in the polls.

Following up on that , they say analyzing the current mindset and behavior of the millennial generation will result in a deeper understanding of the significant role Millennials could play in the current presidential race.

The Young Voters event is just the latest organized by Fred Siegel. Past events include What Happened to All the Good Men?, Is the New York Times Good for Democracy?, Independent Voices of the Middle East and Are the Tea Parties Good for New York?

[Photo: Morley Winograd, Elaine Kamarck, Fred Siegel, Mike Hais and Henry Olson]

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.

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