NRL News

Another Look at the Voting Patterns of “Millennials”

by | Apr 4, 2011

By Jonathan Rogers
Field Coordinator, National Right to Life

The Harvard Institute of Politics released a new survey of the so-called “Millennial Generation” last week, which supports much of the prevailing conventional wisdom regarding young voters in the 18-29 year old demographic (

The main highlights of the poll report that President Obama’s approval rating has risen to 55% among millennials after dipping to 49% last October, and suggests that the President would win a hypothetical match-up against a generic Republican if the 2012 election were held right now amongst 18-29 year olds. Some of their passion for the President has clearly cooled since the 2008 elections. Nonetheless the report seems to suggest that President Obama still has an advantage with the youth vote, even though the approval numbers are far smaller in 2011 than they were in 2008.

Obama famously won the Presidency in 2008 with lots of help from near historic turnout levels amongst young and first-time voters. The Millennial Generation voted for Obama by more than a 2 to 1 margin. And the Harvard report backs up the emerging consensus viewpoint amongst many pollsters that Millennials are shaping up to be a reliable Democrat constituency, with potentially huge long-term electoral ramifications.

Two important caveats come to mind, however.

First of all, young voters are notoriously flighty. After showing up in droves for Obama in 2008, they sat home in the 2010 off-election elections when many of Obama’s pro-abortion congressional allies were defeated. Most millenials–and college students in particular–don’t follow politics closely, and after being caught up in the mystique of Obama’s historic 2008 campaign, many didn’t even know there were elections in 2010.

Not only do historical trends suggest that young voters are not reliable votes in mid-term elections, they might not be as reliable in the future. While the President’s approval numbers with Millennials are higher than with the public as a whole, they are still significantly lower than they were on election day in 2008. This is to say nothing of how young adults often change their views over time as they grow older. 

Secondly and most importantly, abortion remains the glaring exception. While the Harvard survey makes no mention of abortion anywhere, we’ve pointed out numerous times in the past how America’s youngsters are some of the most pro-life minded people around (

Nearly six in ten (58%) young Americans consider most abortions to be morally wrong. Pro-lifers have been celebrating this fact while pro-aborts have been hand-wringing over it for a while now (

But in 2008 what young voters marked on their ballots did not line up with their instincts. One of the most pro-life generations ever voted for one of the most pro-abortion candidates ever. It’s partly a failure of voter education, and partly due to the fact that some pre-election polling suggested that at least a third of the electorate couldn’t accurately identify Barack Obama’s position on abortion.

If Millennials are already inclined towards the pro-life position while at the age when they are most like to experience crisis pregnancies or witness friends have abortions, then there is a good chance that their pro-life views will solidify more firmly as they grow older. The pro-life movement can and should be doing everything possible to educate younger voters right now, to buttress their instincts with substance. Here’s how.

The Harvard Survey indicated that Millennials are most likely to receive news and political information through social media, especially Facebook. Pro-lifers should be active in this medium and could have a big advantage there if we use it correctly. Simply sharing a pro-life article or fact sheet on fetal development or the legal ramifications of Roe vs. Wade can help spread the factual basis needed to build strong pro-life foundations and counteract the slowly seductive bias of the popular secular culture.

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And be sure to promote Today’s News & Views and National Right to Life News Today. As many as nine items a day are posted on these sites. When you forward them to your pro-life contacts, or post them on your own Facebook account, it multiplies the impact a hundred or a thousand-fold. The grassroots nature of the pro-life movement thrives off of personal interactions amongst members of a community. Social media helps you do the same thing online.

The pro-life electoral strategy has always capitalized off the fact that there are more single issue pro-life voters than there are single issue pro-abortion voters, yielding a net gain for a generic pro-life candidate. Constantly cultivating the next generation of potential new single issue pro-life voters and explaining how specific pro-life policies, laws, and proposals are in harmony with what young voters already believe may one day pay off very handsomely indeed.

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