This Election Got Me All Wrong as a Millennial -- & My Vote Will Prove It

Millennials are, according to the pundits and pollsters and the other people psychoanalyzing us in this election, crucial voters for Clinton and Trump. So it's probably worth noting that we hate TrumpWe're also apathetic and disappointed and unenthusiastic -- except for when it came to Bernie. We LOVED Bernie, did you hear? We loved Bernie SO MUCHWe don't trust Clinton, don't trust the system, and you can't trust us to vote. You know everything about us. Except when you don't.

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With the exception of the part about hating Trump, nothing pollsters are saying represent me, as a millennial, at all. It does not represent anyone I know at all. For the past year, I've been told how I'm thinking and acting during this election, how I'll be voting and why. But they're not right, and that's frustrating. It's frustrating because everyone keeps saying how much I don't care. But I do. I care a lot.

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Listen, I understand how polls work. I understand it's hard to accurately represent a group of people and communicate learnings in a clicky manner. But God, guys -- it's like you're not even trying.

Maybe I'm just bitter because I didn't vote for Bernie in the primaries, and I've felt incorrectly categorized and under-represented since then. Maybe. But maybe I'm frustrated because during the course of this year-plus election process, I have not been polled once. Not a single person I know across the country under the age of 30 has been polled once -- not nationally, not in any state.

Millennials are famously hard to reach with traditional political polls, and I get that polling organizations are still trying to figure out the best way to get a read on us. But where's that uncertainty in the definitive, one-size-fits-all reports they give us? Why are we talking in broad generalizations instead of in sample sizes and margins of error?

For example, here's a poll that says, and we quote, "less than half of millennials think they'll definitely vote in November." Here's one of the study's analysts pointing out, definitively, the (rather large) difference between the number of "definite" voters in the over-30 and under-30 age groups:

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Yep, that's shocking. It's also probably misleading. For one thing, as the Washington Post article points out, "millennial" is a term used loosely here -- since the cutoff is at 30, about five or six years of millennials would be lumped with the over 30 crowd, and if older people are more likely to vote, that does a disservice to the "millennial" stat.

But the biggest problem is sample size. Any article or discussion about the poll will tell you that there were 1,001 participants reached by landline and cell phone. A publicly available raw analysis will tell you the number of registered voters polled versus likely voters, Democrats polled versus Republicans, and people polled via landline versus cell phone. But if you want to know an age breakdown, you have to email them and ask.

CafeMom did, and the Washington Post told us: Out of 1,001 participants, 158 were aged 18-29, 534 were between the ages of 30 and 64, and 302 were older than 65. (Seven didn't provide their ages.) That's two times as many seniors -- and about four times as many 30- to 64-year-olds -- as young people.

So if 59 percent of the 158 millennials polled aren't positive they're voting, that's about 93 people between the ages of 18 and 30 representing the 75.4 million millennials in the US in nationally broadcast statistics. Yes, the point of a poll is to gather a representative sample. But in this case, the representative sample seems too small. The margin of error is too large for sweeping statements like "less than half of millennials think they'll definitely vote."

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The idea that headlines are misleading -- and only communicate the information that's going to make you click -- is not new or particularly shocking. It's actually very understandable. But in general (and perhaps even more in this election), millennials have been demonized by polls -- and their headlines -- to what seems like an erroneous degree.

This rhetoric that we're unenthusiastic about everything other than our iPhones and Bernie Sanders is easy to agree with and fun to dissect -- as is the idea that we're generation of slackers that will slack our way all the way through November 8. But subscribing to it is problematic for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is that we internalize what you tell us. If you keep saying we're lazy and unenthusiastic, we're going to start believing it. Then laziness and un-enthusiasm is what we're going to give you.

And in an election that could very well come down to millennial voters -- and where apathy favors Donald Trump -- that hurts all of us.

Yes, many of my peers won't vote. Many don't care about this election or politics in general, and yeah, many, many of them loved Bernie Sanders. 

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But there are also many of us who have loved Hillary since the primaries. There are many of us for which this election isn't voting for the lesser of two evils -- it's voting for a candidate we trust (gasp!) and believe in. There are many of us who actually enjoy watching the presidential debates, and who don't mind working with the political system we've inherited, corrupted as it may be.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'd like to hear from us.

I'm voting because I care about Hillary Clinton, and I care about women's issues and immigration and gun control and LGBT rights and climate change and everything else at stake in this election. I'm voting because I care. 

So stop telling me that I don't.

 

Image via JASON REDMOND/Stringer/Getty

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