President Barack Obama's administration is really into millennials these days.
There's the new report by the the president's Council of Economic Advisers, boasting the Buzzfeed-esque title, "15 Economic Facts About Millennials." It has lots of charts! Also lots of words: It's 49 pages long.
There's the fact sheet detailing "President Obama's Agenda for Creating Economic Opportunity for Millennials." It explains, "There are still challenges to meet, but no generation has been better equipped to overcome them than Millennials." (Aw thanks, I'm blushing.)
There's an emoji-filled social-media campaign, listed on the White House website under the deadpan headline, "This Is an Infographic About Millennials." It's perhaps a little demeaning, but also kind of great -- and certainly more digestible than the report or the fact-sheet.
And there's the town hall that Obama held today in Santa Monica, California, at Cross Campus, a self-proclaimed "engine of creativity and innovation" -- which sounds very millennial. "We've got a Congress that has been spending a little bit too much time worrying about the next election and not enough time worrying about the next generation," the president said.
Of course, the administration has gone through all this effort because Obama and his party are also worried about the next election. And they need millennial votes in November.
This is a task that no amount of carefully placed emoji can likely accomplish. Youth turnout in midterm elections is routinely low -- and predicted to remain so this year. The allure of Obama -- and by extension his party -- as history-maker long ago faded. It's been replaced by a certain amount of disillusionment: According to Gallup, for the week of Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, Obama's approval rating among 18- to 29-year-olds was 46 percent, compared with 43 percent for adults overall.
Obama's policies have benefited young people in tangible ways. According to the CEA report, "From the time the Affordable Care Act's dependent coverage provision took effect in 2010 through the first quarter of 2014, the uninsurance rate among individuals ages 19 to 25 fell by 13.2 percentage points." Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, per the fact sheet, "has benefited some 600,000 young people who were brought to this country as children by their parents."
But policy is not as inspiring as history. The Obama era seems to have exhausted its share of history-making. A video with Lena Dunham and Lil Jon pinpointing the issues that are spurring them to vote ("reproductive rights" and "the legalization of marijuana," respectively) pales in comparison to the spectacle of an epic presidential election. Millennials, like the young of previous generations, are an enthusiastic cohort but not always the most conscientious citizens.
Millennials have a lot at stake in November. We really should vote. But I'm afraid we won't.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.
To contact the author on this story:
Zara Kessler at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor on this story:
Frank Wilkinson at email@example.com