Research on Millennial Voting Behaviors and Cause Engagement Shows Generation Sees Activism in Different Way Than Previous Generations

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Data finds millennials are actively moving away from traditional forms of cause engagement and while taking consistent action on causes they care about

“For millennials, taking consistent positive actions every day or week is a lifestyle and a fundamental part of their identity,” notes Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation.

Achieve, in partnership with the Case Foundation, released the final 2016 Millennial Impact Report: Cause Engagement during a U.S. Presidential Election Year. The report reveals that while millennials (born 1980 – 2000) remain passionately interested in improving their world, they base their political decisions on what causes each candidate supports and no longer primarily look to traditional institutions to effect societal change.

Millennials are quickly normalizing the change-making lifestyle—one in which cause engagement is embedded in their everyday lives and identity—while at the same time losing faith in government and other established groups to make a meaningful impact.

This research study breaks new ground by investigating the connection between millennial cause engagement and their political ideologies.

“Millennial engagement with causes and the organizations that serve them is shifting,” said Derrick Feldmann, president of Achieve. “They’re moving deep into a change-making and giving lifestyle that’s separate from the forms of engagement we’re used to. Causes and nonprofits need to find more personal, and personally fulfilling, ways to engage millennials.”

For the full report, visit themillennialimpact.com.

Summary of key findings include:

  • Voting: Many millennials appeared to have finally selected a candidate only once they were in the voting booth. In our study, 50 percent of millennials reported voting for Hillary Clinton and 40 percent for Donald Trump, even though Achieve’s pre-election surveys did not predict this result. Most reported supporting positions from both sides of the political divide concurrently.
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  • Activism: Millennials in our research saw “making a difference” as personally gratifying, yet they are engaging with causes in ways that redefine traditional labels. Most notably, millennials are reshaping what it means to be an activist. Though many are actively involved in causes, just slightly over half (52.5 percent) identified themselves as activists. Achieve’s research suggests millennials equate “activist” with someone who participates in protests or some similar form of publicly noticeable action – and they largely want to avoid conflict, based on our qualitative research.
  • Issues: Millennials are interested in specific social issues at the macro level, consistently identifying education, wages, health care, employment and the economy as the areas of most concern to them. They act, however, at the micro level, getting engaged primarily with issues that are or have been close to their personal lives. For example, the top issues of concern among high school/no degree participants included crime/criminal justice, arts and culture, and employment and wages. (Millennials across the board still reported responding to disaster relief needs most.)
  • Trust in Government: Millennials in the Achieve study did not trust in government to right the wrongs in the country. Instead, 70 percent of put more faith in themselves to create the kind of change they want to see, with one-third believing they could make a big impact and another one-third a moderate one. As a result, they are signing petitions, volunteering for causes, connecting on social media platforms and acting within their own circles as ways to incite change.

“For millennials, taking consistent positive actions every day or week is a lifestyle and a fundamental part of their identity,” notes Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation. “In changing how change is made, members of this generation no longer see themselves as “activists” like their parents, but rather as everyday changemakers. This shift in behavior may have significant implications for more traditional activism in the long term. It warrants continued in-depth review and discussion.”

As millennials are aging—the youngest are now 18 years old—their cause affinities and related behaviors are evolving. The report concludes that millennial preferences will require nonprofits and causes (as well as the companies that support them) to adjust how they inspire this generation to become advocates and donors.

To learn more about the Millennial Impact Project and view all of the reports, including the full 2016 Millennial Impact Report and the Millennial Impact Project Retrospective, visit themillennialimpact.com/research.

About the Millennial Impact Project

The Millennial Impact Project is the most comprehensive and trusted study of the millennial generation (born 1980-2000) and their involvement with causes. Since beginning the study in 2009, Achieve continues to lead the national research team in partnership with the Case Foundation. With more than 75,000 participants in its studies, The Millennial Impact Project has helped organizations, corporations and individuals around the world understand the best approaches to cultivate interest and involvement with this generation. themillennialimpact.com

About Achieve

Achieve is a research and marketing agency for causes. We leverage our expertise in research, technology, marketing and strategy to understand and inspire your audience – whether current or yet to be discovered – to take action. Learn more about Achieve, our research, events and cloud-based technology solutions, TrustedPartner and RacePartner, at achieveagency.com

About the Case Foundation

Established by digital pioneers Jean and Steve Case, the Case Foundation invests in people and ideas that can change the world. For two decades, we have focused on creating programs and investing in people and organizations that harness the best impulses of entrepreneurship, innovation, technology and collaboration to address urgent social challenges. Our work is focused on three key pillars: revolutionizing the philanthropic sector, unleashing the power of entrepreneurship to create social change and igniting civic engagement through citizen-driven solutions. For more information, visit casefoundation.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Rai Masuda
Achieve
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