Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

Millennials Want to Meet, Not Just Tweet, Their Politicians

Fifty-six percent say they’d rather see a candidate in person than chat with him or her on social media.

Millennials aren’t so crazy about your tweets, Donald Trump.

Wait! They aren't wild about Clinton or Sanders on Twitter either.

What they really want to do is meet you guys. In fact, 56 percent of millennials, defined by the survey as 18 to 34 years old, would rather meet a political candidate in person than chat with him or her on social media, compared with 51 percent of baby boomers and 45 percent of Generation X, according to a survey released Wednesday.

Senator Bernie Sanders greets attendees at a campaign rally in Tampa.
Senator Bernie Sanders greets attendees at a campaign rally in Tampa.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

And despite what is nonetheless a high level of political engagement on social platforms, 44 percent of the millennials surveyed said politicians don’t come off as real on social media, compared with 32 percent of Gen X and 31 percent of the boomers.

“There’s a large emphasis on authenticity,” said Brian Stipelman, associate professor of political science at Dowling College. “It cuts across generational divides, but it's more likely to be important to younger voters.”

Hillary Clinton @HillaryClinton
How does your student loan debt make you feel?Tell us in 3 emojis or less.
Twitter: Hillary Clinton on Twitter

The survey, of 3,025 American adults, was conducted by market research firm Ipsos for Eventbrite, a ticketing platform that has processed over two million tickets to more than 10,000 political events since January 2015. Just over half of the survey’s respondents follow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, compared with 44 percent who follow Hillary Clinton, his competitor, and one third who follow Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.  

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
I will bring our jobs back to America, fix our military and take care of our vets, end Common Core and ObamaCare, protect 2nd A, build WALL
Twitter: Donald J. Trump on Twitter

While millennials have a reputation for being “hashtag activists” and “clicktavists,” the survey found that 45 percent of political event-goers are millennials, compared with 32 percent for Gen X-ers and 23 percent for boomers.

Young people might be more keen on attending these events because "there’s an enormous degree of distrust among millennials for institutions,” Stipelman said. “They don’t necessarily trust the media or political parties. If that’s the case, [millennials] will be more interested in seeing [politicians] up close and in person, as they won’t trust the vehicles through which they are normally introduced to these candidates.”

The survey found that attending a political event also helps convert voters, in every generation: 77 percent of millennials said the last one they went to made them want to vote for the candidate, compared with 79 percent of those in Gen X and 76 percent of boomers.

But all this political engagement doesn’t mean millennials are actually going to vote. A survey of 18- to 29-year-olds conducted last fall by the Harvard Institute of Politics found that the vast majority, 78 percent, didn't consider themselves to be politically engaged, and only about two thirds were registered.

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