Thursday, September 8, 2016

Election Follow-Up: The Millennials and the Future of Arts Support

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on............................."

According to a Pew Research Center Study the 2016 Presidential Election will mark the end of the Boomer domination of elections:
"For the past few decades, presidential elections have been dominated by voters of the Baby Boom and previous generations, who are estimated to have cast a majority of the votes. But their election reign may end this November.
Baby Boomers and prior generations have cast the vast majority of votes in every presidential election since 1980, data from the Census Bureau’s November Current Population Survey voting supplement show. In 2012, Boomers and previous generations accounted for 56% of those who said they voted. And these generations dominated earlier elections to an even greater degree. 
But the ranks of Millennial and Generation X eligible voters have been growing, thanks to the aging-in of Millennials and naturalizations among foreign-born adults. These generations matched Boomers and previous generations as a share of eligible voters in 2012 and are now estimated to outnumber them. As of July, an estimated 126 million Millennial and Gen X adults were eligible to vote (56% of eligible voters), compared with only 98 million Boomers and other adults from prior generations, or 44% of the voting-eligible population."
And, according to Pew, even if the Millennials and Gen X voters turnout is lower (percentage wise) than the boomers, they may still likely dominate future elections:
"If (and it’s a big if) 70% of Boomer-and-older eligible voters turn out in November, Millennials and Xers could match them even by turning out at much lower rates. A turnout rate of 70% among older voters would translate to 68.6 million votes. Millennials and Gen X could match that number of votes with a turnout rate of 54.5%. This level of turnout among the two younger generations seems plausible based on past elections.
In the 2012 election, 53.9% of Millennial and Gen X eligible voters turned out. Turnout among these generations was even higher in 2004 (54.2%) and higher still in 2008 (56.6%).
Historical patterns of voter turnout by generation also suggest the likely end of dominance by Boomers and prior generations. In general, as a generation ages, turnout rises, hits a peak, and then declines."
So what does this mean for the Arts?  It means that the younger generations voting patterns will determine whether or not candidates supportive of the arts get into office.  And that will determine the future of public funding for the arts - among other issues of great importance to us. This will likely be true at all levels - city / country, state and federal.

While we have been struggling to attract those generations as our audiences - with only limited success in filling empty seats at our performances and exhibitions - we have largely ignored the development and implementation of any coherent, unified strategy to appeal to them as voters to support public funding and those other issues.

The time is now at hand where we need to figure out how we can make our case to these generations to consider candidates that are arts supportive, and to actively prioritize that consideration in their actual voting behavior.  The future of public funding may very well depend on our success in that endeavor.   That case making is entirely different and apart from our efforts to win them as audiences and successfully solicit their financial contributions and their involvement in our organizations as Board members, advisors, volunteers and leaders.  We should not confuse the former with the latter and think that the strategies for one goal automatically work as strategy for the votes we need from these cohorts.  Moreover, strategies targeting the boomer generation may not work targeting younger generations.

We need a national dialogue as to what kind of approach will best work in convincing these younger generations of voters to take up our cause, and we need to develop that strategy with specifics and timelines before the next national election in 2020. We can ill afford to wait until 2019 to begin this effort.

This discussion ought to go on in every arts organization in the country - at the Board and staff levels, and we need a national organization of that dialogue.  One thing we might consider is a series of convenings of Millennials and Gen Xers - including those leaders within our sector, and a cross section of the wider society.  This is something that the members of these generations ought to have the primary role in figuring out.  And they better figure it out.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit