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HKS DC Millennials and the 2016 Election Breakfast Event

The HKS DC Breakfast Series convened September 30, the week of the first debate, to explore the role of Millennials in the 2016 election. It was one of our small session events in which participating alums could relive the best HKS intimate sessions with outstanding speakers and an engaged audience of about 30. It was of course a non-partisan discussion.

The question was whether the Millennial vote is pivotal in the election. We learned that it is.

The panel was fantastic — very articulate and well informed. Their individual and collective insights were a valuable window into the diversity of the generation, what they care about, current polling on their vote leanings, and the potential impact on the election. All three were Millennials, and the audience was a rich mix of all the generations.

The panel consisted of:

Frances Holuba (moderator) - Director of Social Enterprise, Politico

Philip Rucker – National Reporter, The Washington Post

Eugene Scott - National Reporter, CNN Politics, and HKS alum (MC/MPA 2015)

We are in the debt of our panel for taking time just a few weeks before the election to talk to our group, and we wish them well in these next hectic days. That same day, Eugene was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer about Millennials on his program, and Philip had a front page story the next day in the Washington Post, while Fran was meeting multiple obligations around the metro region.

Who are the Millennials? Turns out that is a common question. We accepted the years 1980-1997 and moved on to their diversity and interests. Millennials definitely are not a monolith, as they range from college students to parents with young children. Their views vary by ethnicity, socio-economic group, and geographic location. A similarity and important trait is their insistence on transparency and openness, which colors their view of the candidates. Also, they are interested in mainstream issues but perhaps are more passionate about issues they feel are neglected in campaign discussion, such as climate change (perhaps their number one), student loan debt, criminal justice/prison system, tolerance, and childcare.

A fascinating thread throughout the discussion was the role of technology, which is particularly creative in this election cycle: everything from companies like Starbucks taking a stand to Uber helping people to the polls to apps and websites with information on issues and voting. Another topic was attention to Americans with disabilities and the importance of a broader definition and inclusivity.

So, back to the original question: Do they matter? Most definitely yes. The winner will need to pay attention to Millennial issues both during the rest of the campaign and after the election. It can be considered a social contract with them.

Millennials are the largest voting block this year and will continue to be in the future. Millennials are expected to vote, but not in the numbers experienced for President Obama. They see themselves as independents and do not place importance on party, nor do they trust big government. In spite of that, current Washington Post poll shows Hillary Clinton at 44%, Donald Trump at 24%, Gary Johnson at 20%, and Jill Stein at 6%. The third party vote is a challenge for the Clinton campaign, as is getting enough Millennials to the polls. The Trump factor is still at play, too, and whether he makes more mistakes is a factor.

HKS DC Council President Jayme Johnson opened the session with thanks to our co-host, Forum One, who provided the perfect space for our breakfast buffet, networking, and discussion. Many thanks to HKS alum Mike Shoag for his introduction of Forum One.

HKS DC Councilor and Secretary Nancy Bearg planned the event with her Breakfast Series co-chair, Ellen Stiefvater; and Friends of the Council Melissa Wilf and Cindy Ann Peterson provided greeting and photography support.

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