Who is the Millennial Voter?

It’s 11:30pm and Mike, a Millennial, is watching The Colbert Report – Colbert is reviewing the Democratic National Convention and poking fun at Barack Obama’s evil “Dempire.”  “This guy cracks me up, and the fact that he can report the ‘news’ while commenting on the shift from fake to real Greek Columns in the background of speeches makes this worth watching to me.”

Today’s Millennial voters are very different than their predecessors – in terms of how they view the government, as well as how they arm themselves with information as voters.  According to panelists in Edelman Berland’s 8095 PluggedIN community, only 5% of this group strongly trusts the government, compared to 75% that are neutral and fully 20% that exhibit strong distrust toward the government.  Younger Millennials are even more likely to say the current administration is in bad shape.

This demographic group shares its malaise with friends and family; over half discuss politics frequently with those close to them, and more than three-fourths of millennials care a lot about the upcoming election. Of the 80% who plan to vote in November, more than three-in-four are heavy TV watchers. This indicates their votes may be swayed by the news sources they view – with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report topping the list of most watched political TV shows.

The bulk of Millennials follow the election via traditional and Digital Media, but word of mouth and social media are among the leading means by which they share information about the election.  Those who plan to vote for Obama are nearly twice as likely as Millennials overall to follow or share candidate information via social media.

Is the election little more than a popularity contest?  If it is, Barack comes away the Homecoming King. Edelman Berland’s panelists are at least two times as likely to choose Obama over Romney when asked with whom they would rather play sports, have dinner, be stranded on a dessert island, or be supervised at work.  As shown in our latest infographic, Obama wins all test matches except when panelists are asked with whom they would prefer to start a business; Mitt Romney wins 51% to 42%.

As candidates seek to connect with this critical audience, knowing where to find them (on TV and in traditional media) and how to mobilize them (through word of mouth and social media) will prove instrumental.  Unless Mr. Romney figures out how to connect on a personal level with this generation – connecting his point of view to economic and job growth – the President’s lead on likeability and personality factors will prove insurmountable.