Millennial Voters and California Politics
- Millennials are less likely to register and vote than older Californians.
Millennials (ages 18–34), Generation X (ages 35–51), and Baby Boomers (ages 52–70) each make up about the same share of California’s population, and the Silent generation (ages 71–88) comprises a much smaller share. But we find in our surveys that only 53% of Millennials are registered to vote, compared to 76% of Baby Boomers and 87% of Silents. The likelihood of voting increases sharply with age: only one in four Millennials are likely voters, compared to three in four Silents. Notably, Baby Boomers (39%) make up the biggest share of the state’s likely voters, followed by Gen Xers (28%), Millennials (18%), and Silents (14%).
- Millennials are more liberal than older Californians and less likely to be Republicans.
Across age groups, Millennials are the most likely to say they are politically very liberal or somewhat liberal (42%, 32% Gen X, 31% Boomer, 27% Silent) and the least likely to call themselves very or somewhat conservative (28%, 37% Gen X, 38% Boomer, 45% Silent). About three in ten in each generational group considers themselves politically moderate. Across groups, at least four in ten are registered Democrats, with Republican registration more common among older generations than among Millennials (15% Millennial, 28% Gen X, 31% Boomer, 43% Silent). The likelihood of being a registered independent (also known as "decline to state” or "no party preference”) decreases with age (32% Millennial, 26% Gen X, 20% Boomer, 14% Silent).
- Millennials are more likely to prefer higher taxes for more government services.
When asked about the size of government, 58% of Millennial likely voters prefer paying higher taxes for a state government that provides more services, compared to fewer than half in other age groups (47% Gen X, 43% Boomer, 39% Silent). In July 2016, regarding the upcoming presidential election, support among likely voters for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump crossed three generations: Millennials (39% to 23%), Gen Xers (45% to 28%), and Baby Boomers (54% to 27%); Silents were divided (42% each). Notably, support for non-major party candidates was highest among Millennials (8% Gary Johnson, 16% Jill Stein).
- Most Millennials favor legalizing marijuana and extending the Proposition 30 income taxes.
In May 2016, when asked about ballot issues for the fall, Millennial likely voters were far more likely than other age groups to support legalizing marijuana (79%), extending the Proposition 30 tax increases to fund education and health care (77%), and increasing the cigarette tax to fund health care (83%). Millennial likely voters are also much more likely to view immigrants as a benefit to California (78%, 63% Gen X, 54% Boomer, 40% Silent). Finally, on the environment, Millennial likely voters are more likely to say state action to reduce global warming would increase jobs (43%, 34% Gen X, 38% Boomer, 21% Silent) and are willing to pay more for electricity from renewable sources to reduce global warming (64%, 58% Gen X, 56% Boomer, 47% Silent).
- A generational divide is apparent in household income, education, and homeownership.
Millennials (58%) are more likely than others to fall in the lowest category of income (less than $40,000/year). As may be expected, younger Californians (23%) are less likely than Gen Xers (34%) or Baby Boomers (31%) to have a college degree, but they are similar to Silents in this area (27%). Homeownership increases sharply across age groups (24% Millennial, 49% Gen X, 67% Boomer, 79% Silent).
- California’s racial and immigrant composition varies across generations.
The distribution of race/ethnicity and immigration status across age groups reflects a rapidly changing social landscape. Latinos outnumber whites among Millennials (42% to 28%) and Gen Xers (41% to 36%), while whites outnumber Latinos among Baby Boomers (56% to 26%) and Silents (72% to 15%). The share of Asian Americans declines with age, accounting for 21% of Millennials and only 5% of Silents. The proportion of African Americans is similar across age groups. Similar proportions of Millennials (32%) and Baby Boomers (30%) are immigrants, while Gen Xers (48%) and Silents (19%) are the most likely and the least likely, respectively, to be immigrants.
SOURCE: Seven PPIC Statewide Surveys from September 2015 to July 2016, including 11,935 adults and 7,306 likely voters.
NOTE: There is no prevailing consensus among researchers concerning the definitions for each of these generational groups. Our definitions are informed by the US Census Bureau and are as follows: Millennial (ages 18–34), Generation X (ages 35–51), Baby Boomer (ages 52–70), and the Silent generation (ages 71–88).