Millennials Will Vote to Shake Up Wall Street. Right?

Guess again. Young people care most about the economy and terror, just like their parents, a Harvard survey finds.
Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Most of us realize we're becoming our parents in middle age. It looks as if millennials are getting a head start in the voting booth.

Asked to rank a list of issues in order of importance to them when considering a presidential candidate, millennials gave priority to the economy and terrorism, just like voters in general. The survey, of 1,000 Americans aged 18-29 was done by the Harvard Institute of Politics. 

About a third of those surveyed said improving the economy was their most important consideration when voting, followed by 12 percent focusing on the fight against terrorism and 10 percent on reducing inequality. Despite the younger generation's support of Bernie Sanders, only 5 percent said reducing the impact of money in politics was their top concern when selecting a presidential candidate, and only 2 percent made it their priority to reform Wall Street. 

These priorities are largely in line with those of the general voting public. A February report from Gallup found that both Republicans and Democrats prioritize economic issues and national security when voting for president, with government regulation of Wall Street "below average in importance to both parties." The economy also topped the list in a survey by news provider Next Avenue of 3,400 readers, most of them over 50. (Health care beat terror.)

The big difference between millennials and their elders seems to be whether they will vote at all. In a Pew Research Center survey, 69 percent of eligible Baby Boom voters said they had voted in the 2012 election, as had 61 percent of Generation X voters, while only 46 percent of eligible millennials had gone to the polls. When the Harvard survey asked how likely millennials were to vote this November, just 47 percent said they were "definitely voting," with additional 29 percent in the "maybe" category. 

Millennials do lean further left than the country as a whole, the survey found. Forty percent identified themselves as Democrats, 21 percent as Republicans, and 36 percent as independents. Given a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, most said they would vote for Clinton if the election were held today.

That doesn't mean they'd like it: 60 percent said they have an unfavorable view of Clinton. The figure was 74 percent when it came to Trump.

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