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Event Summary
Although young voter turnout will likely be lower in the 2012 election than in 2008, it remains evident that the millennial generation will still largely support Barack Obama. At an AEI event on Wednesday, polling, demographic and voter outreach experts discussed their predictions for the millennial generation’s role in the upcoming election.

In the first panel, Neil Howe of Lifecourse Associates argued that millennials cut across most normal political categories, which tends to baffle older generations when it comes to social issues. Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress argued that Mitt Romney’s campaign lacks a strategy to appeal to young voters, which will hurt him at the ballot box. Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center, however, suggested that while millennials have negative perceptions of the Republican brand, many are still learning and making decisions about Romney.

In the second panel, Heather Smith and Paul Conway  of Rock the Vote and Generation Opportunity, respectively, emphasized that while social media and mobile technology are increasingly important in young voter outreach, ground-level involvement still engages millennials. Smith rejected the idea that millennial voters are eager to engage in generational warfare. Instead, Conway emphasized, many young voters will be driven by the candidates’ positions on the economy.
— Andrew Rugg

Event Description
In 2008, Barack Obama won millennial voters —18 to 29 year olds —by 34 points. The voters also turned out in high numbers, comprising about 18 percent of the electorate. It is unlikely that Mitt Romney and fellow Republicans will win over young voters in 2012, but recent polling suggests that Obama’s margin may not be as large as 2008 and that turnout may not be as high.

To understand how members of the millennial generation will impact the 2012 election, come to AEI to listen to two panels of experts explore who exactly millennials are, their involvement in the political process and how campaigns are mobilizing them.


Chart: The millennial vote, 1972-2008

Infographic: I love 1994: A look at what was happening when America’s newest voters were born

Slideshow: The events that have shaped the millennial era




5:45 PM
6:00 PM
Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Karlyn Bowman, AEI
6:10 PM
Panel I: Demography and Attitudes
Neil Howe, Lifecourse Associates
Scott Keeter, Pew Research Center
Ruy Teixeira, Center for American Progress
Andrew Rugg, AEI
6:50 PM
Panel II: Mobilization
Paul Conway, Generation Opportunity
Heather Smith, Rock the Vote
Jennifer Marsico, AEI
7:30 PM
Wine and Cheese Reception

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Andrew Rugg at [email protected], 202.862.5917.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.

Speaker Biographies

Paul Conway is the president of Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501 (c)(4) organization with the mission of educating, organizing and mobilizing 18- to 29-year-olds — known as millennials — on the immediate and long-term economic challenges facing the nation, namely lack of job opportunities, increasing debt, federal spending and U.S. competitiveness. The organization’s Facebook platforms have amassed a total fan base of more than 3.4 million, making Generation Opportunity one of the largest groups in the country communicating with 18- to 29-year-olds. Generation Opportunity’s strategy combines advanced social media tactics with traditional, boots-on-the-ground grass-roots organizing. The ultimate goal is to further engage young Americans who already suffer disproportionately from the poor economy throughout the democratic process to advocate for real solutions and hold elected officials accountable. Conway’s background is rooted in work with more than 100 political campaigns and in public service under four U.S. presidents and three governors. He served as chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Labor, as chief of staff for the Office of Personnel Management and as an agency chief at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Neil Howe is a historian, economist and demographer who writes and speaks frequently on generational change in American history and long-term fiscal policy. Howe is president and co-founder of LifeCourse Associates, a marketing, human resources and strategic planning consultancy that serves corporate, government and nonprofit clients. He has authored eight books on American generations, mostly co-authored with William Strauss, including “Generations” (Quill, 1991), “The Fourth Turning” (Broadway Books, 1997), “Millennials Rising” (Vintage, 2000) and, most recently, “Millennials in the Workplace” (Lifecourse Associates, 2010).  He has also authored numerous books and policy reports on demographics, most recently “The Graying of the Great Powers” (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2008). He is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he helps lead the Global Aging Initiative, and a senior adviser to the Concord Coalition.

Scott Keeter is the director of survey research at the Pew Research Center where he provides methodological guidance to all of the Pew projects. His main appointment is at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, where Keeter helps design survey projects, develop questionnaires and analyze data. He is co-author of four books, including “A New Engagement? Political Participation, Civic Life, and the Changing American Citizen” (Oxford University Press, 2006), “The Diminishing Divide: Religion’s Changing Role in American Politics” (Brookings Institution Press, 2000), “What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters” (Yale University Press, 1997) and “Uninformed Choice: The Failure of the New Presidential Nominating System” (Praeger, 1984). His other published research includes articles and book chapters on survey methodology, political communications and behavior and health care topics. Keeter is also president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Since 1980, he has been an election night analyst of exit polls for NBC News and has taught at George Mason University, Rutgers University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Heather Smith is the executive director of Rock the Vote. Rock the Vote’s mission is to engage and build political power for young people in order to achieve progressive change in the U.S. Founded over 20 years ago at the intersection of popular culture and politics, Rock the Vote is growing its team and its campaigns to support the tidal wave of young people wanting to get involved in elections and seize the power of the youth vote to create progressive political and social change. Over the last two decades, Rock the Vote has registered more young people to vote than any other organization or campaign and intends to be the best-informed online resource for young people to visit before casting their ballots. In 2006, Smith was named one of Campaign & Elections magazine’s Rising Stars for her work with young voters. She has also been named one of Esquire magazine’s Best and Brightest of 2007.

Ruy Teixeira is a senior fellow at both The Century Foundation (TCF) and the Center for American Progress (CAP). Teixeira is also a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, where he has directed projects on political demography and geography and co-authored a series of papers with William Frey on the shifting demographics of battleground states. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including “America’s New Swing Region: Changing Politics and Demographics in the Mountain West” (Brookings, 2012), “Red, Blue and Purple America: The Future of Election Demographics” (Brookings, 2008), “The Emerging Democratic Majority” (Scribner, 2004), “America’s Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters” (Basic Books, 2001) and The Disappearing American Voter (Brookings, 1992), as well as hundreds of articles, both scholarly and popular. He writes Public Opinion Snapshot, a weekly feature on the CAP and TCF websites, as well as an online column for The New Republic.

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