In 2013, Jack Gierzynski wrote a book that looked at the effect the Millennial Generation (1982-2002) had on the 2008 election. The University of Vermont political science professor looked at how the Harry Potter series impacted political views and thinking.
“Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013) reveals that readers of the seven-book series and viewers of the movie franchise tend be more open to diversity; politically tolerant; less authoritarian; less likely to support the use of deadly force or torture; more politically active; and are more likely to have a negative view of the Bush administration. About 60 percent of those who read all of the books said they voted for Obama in 2008, and 83 percent of the full-series readers said they viewed the Bush Administration unfavorably.
“Whether the book provided new perspectives or reinforced those already in their world, the deep immersion in the story and identification with the characters almost guaranteed an alignment of fans’ perspectives with those of the wizarding world, perspectives that would differentiate them from their nonfan peers,” said Gierzynski.
“It is, ultimately, impossible to prove that the Harry Potter phenomenon caused fans to view politics in ways that reflect the lessons of the books,” concluded Gierzynksi. “But the results of the more rigorous statistical tests that we report on, as well as the words of Millennials themselves on this issue, leave us confident that the story of the struggles of the wizarding world against Voldemort did indeed play an important role in the political development of many Millennials.”
Today, a similar phenomenon is at play.
An article in New York Magazine suggests that Millennials may prove to be pivotal in the 2020 election as well. The conclusion: Donald Trump should be concerned.
“The bulk of Americans born between 1981 and 1996 saw Bill Clinton preside over an age of peace and prosperity — and then George W. Bush steer their nation into failed wars and economic collapse. Political science research suggests that a voter’s partisan preferences tend to be deeply informed by their evaluations of presidential performance in adolescence and early adulthood,” the article notes.
“Thus, millennials were likely to lean left, even if their generation wasn’t more diverse, highly educated, and atheistic than its predecessors. But it is. And since all of those traits correlate with ideological liberalism (broadly defined), it’s none too surprising that millennials are far more progressive in their policy preferences — on virtually all issues — than their parents or grandparents,” it goes on.
That suggests that there could be a problem out there for the Republican Party.
“Barack Obama’s 2008 election appeared to confirm that said problem was massive: As the ‘emerging Democratic majority’ continued to emerge, the Republican Party would need to move left, or accept a rapidly declining share of the vote,” the authors noted.
Of course, the first two elections since 2008 put Mitch McConnell in control of the Senate, and Donald into the White House.
Political scientists know that younger Americans have always tended to be less-than-diligent about civic participation. But Millennials seem to be fighting back. The authors of the article are calling it “an unusual lurch.”
“We haven’t yet seen what it looks like when Millennials come into their own as a voting bloc, and it will almost certainly happen. The only question is, will it happen gradually, or suddenly? Is there anything going on in American politics that might spur an unusual lurch forward among the nation’s youngest, most diverse and most educated generation?”
Trump became that catalyst.
A recent Pew Research report on voter turnout in the 2018 elections, and its analysis of Census Bureau data, shows that millennial turnout surged to 42 percent, a full 20 percentage points higher than the cohort’s rate in 2014. In addition, the first time any Gen-Xers were eligible to vote in a midterm election, 23 percent of them showed up at the polls.
Collectively, in 2018, Millennial, Gen-Z, and Gen-X voters cast more ballots than boomers or “silent types” for the first time ever in a midterm election.
That bodes well for Democrats in 2020, pundits say.
It may well come back to what Gierzynski and his students found: Diversity and tolerance may win the votes.
Harry Potter Millennials value equality more; they are less likely to exhibit an authoritarian predisposition; and they evince a greater level of skepticism and a lower level of cynicism. The also abhor torture, and have a strong sense of right and wrong.
All of that could add up to certain magic at the polls in 2020.