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March 2, 2009

Winograd and Hais, Millennial Makeover

I've belatedly read Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais's book, Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics, which is available in a post-election, paperback version. Winograd and Hais (fellows and bloggers at NDN) presciently predicted a sharp Democratic turn in American politics, thanks to a new generation of Americans who were more likely to vote and more aligned with the Democratic Party than their predecessors. They also advised exactly the kind of campaign--with a softer ideological edge, heavy use of social networking tools, and promises of transparency and participation--that carried Barack Obama on his improbable journey to Washington. Obama won by appealing to the very values and preferences that Winograd and Hais detected among Millennials; and young voters were his advantage from the Iowa Caucus through Election Day. I think John McCain's loss was almost inevitable, but Obama, Clinton, or Edwards could have won the nomination. Obama took it on the strength of young voters.

We found similar generational patterns to Winograd and Hais in our recent paper entitled "The Millennial Pendulum." Our paper added one small methodological refinement--we tracked political opinions over time for several cohorts--but didn't provide much of a literature review. Any bibliography should start with Winograd and Hais.

Our work at CIRCLE is complementary to Millennial Makeover. We are interested in the policy opportunities afforded by a new generation that seems more concerned about equality than their predecessors were. And we are interested in all young adults, including college students at institutions like Tufts, which is a leader in developing the civic skills of active and enthusiastic Millennials. However, our emphasis is somewhat different. Winograd and Hais are in the business of predicting how today's young people will vote and otherwise engage, and advising older leaders on how to engage them effectively. If you are interested in these questions, two directions will seem natural:

In contrast, we are primarily concerned about policies for young people. We study the quality, availability, and distribution of educational, civic, and political opportunities. From that perspective:

These two tracks of research are not competitive, but can inform each other. Good policy requires successful political strategy; and it's a smart strategy to propose good policies. For example, NDN proposes that we invest more in the computer training of working-class Americans--an idea that the President picked up because it is both a wise investment and smart politics. I don't think that the Millennials who vote are sufficiently aware of inequalities in their own age group, partly because they attend schools and colleges that are more segregated and stratified than was the case in my youth. The ones who are discussing carbon emissions on Facebook have not even met their peers who lack access to computers. But their core values are egalitarian, and that provides an important opening for good policy.

March 2, 2009 1:44 PM | category: none


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