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Portrait of Millennial Hoosiers in the 2016 Election

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Dr. Joseph Losco, Director
Ball State University

Hoosiers between the ages of 18 and 29 (generally described as Millennials) make up about one-fifth of the state’s population.  In 2008, they helped propel Barack Obama to victory in a state that seldom turns blue fueled by a turnout rate of 48%. Youth enthusiasm sagged in 2012 dipping to just 36.5% of Hoosiers age 18 to 29 and Barack Obama lost the state by ten percentage points.

According to the recent WISH TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey, enthusiasm among Millennials in 2016 approximated the 2012 rate with only 38% of registered 18 to 29 year olds in our pre-election poll saying they would likely vote. In a three way race for president, Millennials split their preferences across all three candidates with Donald Trump garnering 36% support to Clinton’s 33% while Libertarian Gary Johnson won the support of 23%.  However, likely voters in this age group chose Clinton by 52% to 26% over Trump with just 16% for Johnson.

Top issues in the national election for registered voters in this age group were the economy, immigration, and trade—in that order.  Older cohorts of registered voters agreed that the economy was a top issue but ranked healthcare as their number two concern, followed by selection of Supreme Court justices.

While registered voters in our survey support amending the Indiana civil rights law to include protections for the LGBT community (62% favor to 30% oppose), support among Millennials is especially strong with 74% supporting the legislation and only 22% opposing it.   The salience of this issue for Millennials may also have fueled support for John Gregg in the gubernatorial race with 50% of registered voters and fully 71% of likely voters in this age group preferring the Democrat.  Gregg has said he would be issuing an executive order giving civil rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state workers. He also pledged to push for a statewide anti-discrimination law.  His opponent, Eric Holcomb, has stated he would defer action on this matter.

Registered voters in this age group trend liberal and Democratic (35%) while about a third call themselves Independent and 22% identify as Republicans.  But, as presidential preference among all registered Millennials indicates, they are persuadable.  It appears that the next generation of Hoosiers is up for grabs politically. They are looking for candidates who speak to economic and life style issues that impact their futures.