Millennials, Politics & Causes:

The 2016 Millennial Impact Report

THE 2016 MILLENNIAL IMPACT REPORT

CAUSE ENGAGEMENT DURING A U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION YEAR

In 2016, Achieve, supported by the Case Foundation, seized upon a rare opportunity to examine how a national socio-political event might influence millennials’ attitudes toward cause engagement: the U.S. presidential campaign.

We hypothesized that the issues of interest to millennials would change during the political season based on where they aligned ideologically, and that their cause-related engagement would increase via both social media and traditional activism.

We reported our findings in three waves and a final report. Highlights included:

Wave 1:

March-May 2016

  • Millennials identify as more conservative-leaning than liberal-leaning.
  • The majority of millennials have little or no trust that the government will do what’s right.
  • Millennials only somewhat believe that they are activists.
  • Most millennials believe people like them can have an impact in the U.S.

“I feel like government is out of touch.”

Wave 2:

June-August 2016

  • The percentage of millennials who believe they can make the country a better place to live dropped, most notably among females.
  • Even when millennials stated their support of or opposition to an issue, they didn’t show a strong affinity for direct action.
  • By the end of Wave 2, more than a quarter of millennials surveyed did not want to vote for either major party candidate in November.
  • Facebook is still the most popular social media platform on which millennials post about issues they care for.

“I’m an Independent.  A liberal is outspoken
and very competitive.  Independents are
just trying to get the job done.”

Wave 3 & Post Election:

September-November 2016

  • A third of millennials said they either wouldn’t vote at all or for a major party candidate just a month before the election.
  • The percentage of millennials who held a neutral political ideology grew throughout the research period.
  • Millennials don’t feel loyalty toward political parties, but instead vote based on which issues they care about and which candidates they believe best speak to those issues.
  • Education remained the number-one cause issue throughout each wave of research before the election. Yet, post-election interviews revealed respondents moved away from this previously reported position, ranking employment, economy and health care before education.

“I definitely want to try and get more involved.
I just haven’t found the right way of doing so.”

FINAL REPORT

Quantitative and qualitative data captured by our researchers did not support our original hypotheses. However, what we learned was of even more significance:

  • Millennials equate activism with protesting and petition signing. They neither see themselves as activists nor exhibit much overt action in support of causes they say they care about.
  • However, they do educate themselves about causes that capture their interest and share what they learn via social media channels. At the same time, millennials have a strong desire not to create tension or spark arguments in their inner circles. They’ll share information, but they won’t usually try to change anyone’s mind.
  • Millennials want government to become less divisive in order to accommodate what they see as society’s increasing open-mindedness toward many formerly contentious social issues.

“I use social media to investigate issues. I
talk about it some, but you can’t get too
loud about it without bringing in an argument.”

Bottom Line

Millennials remain passionate about their desire for a better world for more people, but they aren’t exhibiting that passion as overtly as their parents’ generation. They believe they can count on only themselves to create the kind of change they want to see, and they’re pursuing change in their own way.

Downloads

Download Wave 1

The 2016 Millennial Impact Report investigates how millennials’ cause engagement behaviors may change during an election year, and how these changes may be influenced by important demographics such as gender, age, geographic location and race/ethnicity. The Wave 1 Trends Report details the overview and methodology of the 2016 study as well as trends from Wave 1 (March-May).

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Download Wave 2

The 2016 Millennial Impact Report Wave 2 reveals new trends related to millennial engagement with causes during the 2016 presidential election cycle and investigates how organizations can motivate this generation to donate their time, money or skills to their causes during election years.

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Download Wave 3

Wave 3 of the 2016 Millennial Impact Report examines millennials’ self-identified attitudes and voting intentions, especially during the last three months before Election Day, which may help researchers and reporters across the country explain why so many of us were caught off guard at the results of the nationwide vote.

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Download Final Report

The final report of the 2016 Millennial Impact Report is the culmination of a year-long study investigating the connection between millennials’ cause engagement and their political ideologies. After analyzing each wave of data and its trends, the final report concludes that millennial preferences will require nonprofits and causes (as well as the companies that support them) to adjust how they inspire this generation to become advocates and donors.

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Interactive Millennial Trends

Achieve collected survey responses from 3,150 millennials during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. We asked questions designed to show us how the cause-related behavior of people born between 1980 and 2000 may have been affected by the election campaign.

Below, we’ve grouped responses by trends. Within a trend, select a demographic trait to see how millennial responses changed by age, gender, race, etc. Hover over areas of each chart to see more information. To turn off “Highlight,” simply click again.