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Dear millennials: Please vote - it does matter

Published Sept. 27, 2016 -


COURTESY PHOTO - Adam DavisDear Millennial,

Please watch out for your ballot in the mail and vote. I know, I know. I hear it in our focus groups, everything from “My vote won’t matter” to “I don’t feel informed enough to vote.”

I also hear a lot of discontent about the presidential race. “Hillary is part of the establishment that got us into this mess,” or “she is dishonest and can’t be trusted.” And Trump? Your descriptions of him, often preceded by adjectives this publication would be reluctant to print, include “charlatan,” “bigot,” “con man,” and “joke.” In a recent survey over 70 percent of you reported negative impressions of both candidates, and many of you say you won’t vote in the presidential election, or you’ll hold your nose and vote for Hillary.

Now, this baby-boomer will try not to lecture you on the value of voting with the usual arguments, such as, “Tens of thousands of American men and women have sacrificed their lives to protect your right to vote,” “If you don’t vote you can’t complain,” “Your vote does matter (yo, Bush v. Gore),” or “Voting is the foundation of a democratic society and an obligation of responsible citizenship.” No, I’m going to lecture you using your own words and the values you express in our focus groups and surveys.

Your generation, more than any other we research, believes in environmental protection and social equity. You tell us more often than other groups that climate change requires us to change our way of life by driving less or living more simply. You are the most likely to agree that we need to dramatically reduce the inequities between rich and poor, whites and people of color, and men and women. You are also the least likely to feel that government interferes too much in our everyday lives.

So, to those of you who need a reason to vote or want to feel better about voting for Hillary Clinton: Vote your own values. Spend a few minutes to review the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet online or ask people you know who are active in the environmental and social equity arenas who they are supporting for president (or governor, or secretary of state) and why.

But voting your values isn’t just about the big-ticket races. If you want your views about the environment, social equity, and the livability and quality of life in your communities to matter, look further down the ballot for the place to make your mark.

In Multnomah County there is an affordable housing bond, while in the tri-county area there’s a measure to fund a network of regional parks, trails, and natural areas and to protect water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife. Also down ballot is an opportunity to save outdoor school for all fifth or sixth graders statewide, and school funding measures across the state at a time when many Oregonians believe schools don’t have enough money to do their job.

The upshot, Millennials, is that you should vote not only because of the presidential election, but to act on your values and help assure a quality environment, social equity, and neighborhood livability in your communities. These local votes take place in off-presidential years, too, and they make a big difference in the direction of our communities on the issues you care about most.

That ends today’s lecture; thanks for giving it a fair shake.

Adam Davis, who has been conducting opinion research in Oregon and across the nation for more than 35 years, is a founding principal in DHM Research (dhmresearch.com).