By Leon Halpert, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science
Over the last decade, increased scholarly attention has been given to examining the political values and voting behavior of the “Millennial” generation (those born between the early 1980s and mid 1990s and who fill the classrooms of Siena College today). Many had reached political majority with the 2008 election and 2012 welcomed the second wave.
The last two election results have shown us that differences between the policy preferences, party affiliation, voting choices and demographic composition of older and younger aged cohorts have been growing during the 21st century. Early in the 2012 election cycle, there was a concern that the differences in the turnout rates between younger and older voters would widen as some observers noted an “enthusiasm gap” between the groups. Some predicted that there would be a decline in youth turnout from their 2008 levels, which generally had benefitted the Democratic Party. However, most exit polls and surveys indicated that Millennial turnout rates held steady or even increased slightly in 2012.
While Obama’s margin of victory among 18-29-year-olds did diminish by 10 points, from 34% in 2008 to 24% in 2012, it was strong enough to help him win re-election. In contrast, Mitt Romney’s margin among the 65+ age cohort was two percent larger than John McCain’s margin in 2008 (eight percent over Obama). While not growing, the partisan-based presidential voting gap between old and young remained wide and is indicative of the political divide in the U.S.
The Siena Research Institute enjoyed another successful election season. From August to Election Day 2012, SRI conducted 30 separate polls in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The results of these polls garnered state and national coverage from major media outlets.
During the 10 days prior to the election, SRI conducted polls on the Presidential and U.S. Senate races in New York, six Congressional District races and three New York State Senate races. Their final polls predicted 9 of 11 winners. In the two contests SRI deemed “too close to call,” one was still undecided in mid-December while in the other, challenger Dan Maffei edged out incumbent Ann Marie Buerkle in a tight race.