Millennials Put Age before Race in Presidential Choice : Resource Interactive Survey Also Finds Economy Most Important Issue

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Amidst plenty of final stretch speculation about a possible “Bradley effect” in the American presidential race, Resource Interactive’s online survey1 of digital millennials’ views on the two candidates shows age playing a more important role than race. The so-called Bradley effect, which allegedly could eliminate several points in Barack Obama’s growing lead over McCain due to latent racism among voters, seems an unlikely outcome among millennials, who comprise the most racially diverse generation in American history: one in three is not Caucasian. When participants were asked to describe each candidate in three words, 60% of respondents noted McCain’s age (“old”) vs. the 27% who noted Obama’s age (“young” or “youthful”). Among those noting race, 14 % noted Obama’s race, and 5% McCain’s. Moreover, McCain’s age—more than Obama’s race—came freighted with more negative connotations than positive ones.

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When Resource asked which of the major party candidates is most looking out for their generation, 65% of respondents said Obama, and only 10% said McCain. The issues most important to millennials had a direct bearing on their choice of candidate. Even though the Resource survey concluded on September 4, 2008, well before the Wall Street bailout, the economy was overwhelmingly ranked the most important issue, followed by energy & environment, then national security, healthcare and Iraq. Less than one-quarter believed McCain is best poised to help solve the issues, due primarily to his experience. More than half of the respondents said Obama is best poised to help solve the issues for several reasons:

Obama represents change and a repudiation of the values of the Bush administration. Many believe that Obama is more open-minded and therefore likely to listen to ideas from many different avenues. Some feel that Obama understands the middle class and has the "people" in his best interest. It is tempting to attribute Obama's popularity among millennials mainly to his digital campaign, by most estimates far more effective than those of his opponents (including Hillary Clinton's). Fast Company's March 2008 cover story, "The Brand Called Obama," cited Resource Interactive's OPEN (on-demand, personal, engaging, and networked) brand framework as a plausible explanation for his phenomenal web success in terms of innovativeness, relevance and appeal.

But Resource Interactive's recent millennial survey raised two finer points about various media's roles in building a political candidate's "brand":

TV is, even to the most digitally connected generation in history, still the best source for finding out the most information about the candidates. Online sources ranging from news sites to YouTube, Wikipedia and candidates' web sites together were ranked the same as or even higher than TV when participants were asked their first choice for the best information about the candidates' views and platforms. This suggests the credibility gap traditional news sources can have for millennials, and their perception of the relative authenticity and transparency of digital sources. The millennial survey also prompted reconsideration of another common branding strategy—the use of endorsements from celebrities, businesses, and organizations. Such endorsements inspired more skepticism than confidence among the millennial participants, some of whom suspected the relationship of the endorsers and candidates had more to do with a system of rewards than an alignment of values and ideas.

1Resource Interactive surveyed the Communispace community of millennials ages 18-24, representing the diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds of typical Americans, on matters concerning the 2008 Presidential Election. The above information resulted from 109 survey respondents.

About Resource Interactive

Resource Interactive is one of the nation's preeminent digital marketing agencies, helping Fortune 500 companies thrive in the evolving internet economy with award-winning digital strategy, creative and technology solutions. Known for its revolutionizing consumer insights, leading edge interactive design and technological innovation, Resource Interactive is ranked among the top ten independent interactive agencies in the nation.

Unique in the industry as female-founded, owned and operated, Resource Interactive has grown over its 27-year history from its first marketing relationship with Apple to ongoing partnerships with clients such as Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, Wal-Mart, The Coca-Cola Company, Victoria's Secret, Sherwin-Williams and L.L. Bean, among others. For more information, visit http://www.resource.com.

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Holly N. Davis
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