Inside The Complicated World Of The Millennial Woman Voter

A new poll from Refinery29 and CBS News breaks down the mysterious, often contradictory views of young American women.

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If you want to know what female rebellion looks like, let’s consider the nearly two years since Donald Trump won the presidential election: A massive Women’s March unleashed millions in protest, congressional phone lines were suddenly flooded, women joined together to say #MeToo, and now an unprecedented number of female candidates are running for office. This is what happens when women rise up to take over. Or is it? The real test is this November. That’s when we’ll know whether or not the women who drove this change are outliers or revolutionaries. This is where the average voter comes in — because she is the real wild card.
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In an effort to understand the young female voter, Refinery29 teamed up with CBS News for a representative poll of American women that spotlights the views of those between the ages 18 to 35. The goal was to understand a group that most pollsters know very little about. (It’s why many assumed that Hillary Clinton would sweep the women’s vote, even though it turned out 43% percent of women — and 53% of white women — voted for Trump). This is not just for our feminist edification. It's because millennial women have the potential to reshape the entire electorate.
Of the more than 73 million women who voted in the 2016 election, 18.4 million were millennials. Next year, millennials are poised to surpass baby boomers as the largest living adult generation, and in turn they are approaching boomers’ share of the American electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. As with other generations, millennial women are slightly more likely to vote than millennial men.
What’s more, in March, Pew released data showing a monumental shift in political identity among millennial women: 70% identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning, a 14% increase from 2014. For comparison, millennial men are much more evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, as are men and women in other age groups. What all this ladders up to is a massive re-ordering of our politics over the long-term, and in the short-term, a potential Blue Wave for the Democrats this fall — that is, if young women actually show up to the polls.
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Right now that is an open question. According to the Refinery29/CBS News poll, the women of this generation hold the most negative views of the Trump presidency of any age group. By more than 2 to 1 millennial women want to see Democrats win control of Congress. And yet: While 70% of millennial women said they are "dissatisfied" or "angry" with the direction of the Trump Administration, only 30% said they will “definitely” vote this fall.
As far as issues go, women of all ages and political persuasions agreed that healthcare was the top issue of 2018. Almost three-quarters of young women say that healthcare is a right. When broken down along party lines, 90% of Democrats, 76% of Independents take that view, while 51% of Republican women think of it as a service people purchase based on what they can pay. Healthcare as a top issue was followed by civil rights and equality and equal pay for young women. While older women agreed these issues were important, they ranked immigration and the economy higher.
Reproductive rights, meanwhile, ranked surprisingly low on the list of priorities for all women: While 69% of women agreed Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land, less than half (45% for millennials, and 44% for all age groups) said they were concerned about restrictions to abortion access.
As for the huge influx of female candidates: Will women turn out to vote for them? While 49% of millennial women say that things would be better if more women were elected to political office, they overwhelmingly ranked both the gender and race of a candidate as a low priority for earning their vote. Yet another caveat: young women of color (21%) are slightly more likely than young white women (18%) to say that being female is a priority for them. Young women of color are also more likely than their white counterparts to say that a candidate belonging to a racial minority is a high priority (27% vs. just 8%).
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However, young women across age, race, and even party identification said that what’s most important to them is that a candidate shares their culture and values (50%) and has political experience (37%). Only about a quarter of women surveyed said it was important that a candidate belongs to the same political party as they do.
This is just a taste of the findings. If you want to know more about how millennial women actually think, Refinery29 is publishing a series of stories that dive deeper into the Refinery29/CBS News poll results, each one following up with the respondents. Ahead, here’s what’s on our lineup this week:
By Ashley Edwards
By Torey Van Oot
By Natalie Gontcharova
In the meantime, be sure to check out the full, illustrated results of the poll here. And tune into CBS This Morning for M[Y]Vote: a three-part series on the potential impact of young women on the midterms.
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