Millennials Are Highly Underrepresented In US Politics, But Change Is Coming

Illustrations of hands and ballots

In 2020, Amanda Litman, the co-founder of Run For Something, took to Twitter to remind her audience why her organization only works with political candidates under 40.

“Every generation has it rough,” she tweeted. “But millennials are dramatically underrepresented in government. If we were proportionally present in Congress, there’d be about 100 of us. Instead, there are about 25. At last count, we made up barely 5% of the 7,383 state legislators nationwide.”

The Pew Research Center backs up her stats. In February of 2021, Pew reported minor increases in millennial representation in Congress. There were 31 millennials in the House of Representatives (which is made up of 432 members), and just one millennial in the Senate (out of 100 members). 

A graph showing that boomers have significantly more members of congress than any other generation, followed by Gen X, Millennials, and then the Silent Generation

At the same time, however, younger generations are beginning to make up the majority of America’s voting blocs.

According to TIME, millennials and members of Gen Z — which together make up the demographic of American adults born since 1981— now represent 31% of the electorate. TIME also shared significant increased voter turnout from young Americans, up by 11% in the 2020 election. 

Increased millennial representation in politics is vital for increased diversity in all political arenas, as well as a means to maintaining a truly representative democracy.

Tim Royers is an educator in Nebraska, where he is running for a seat in the state legislature. He is 37. 

Tim Royers, his partner and his children, posing in front of a home
Tim Royers and his family / Photo courtesy of Royers for Legislature
"There are important issues that impact people at different points in their lives, and ideally you want a range of age groups represented in our state legislatures to help give voice to all important issues."

“There are important issues that impact people at different points in their lives, and ideally you want a range of age groups represented in our state legislatures to help give voice to all important issues,” Royers said.

“One of the biggest human flaws that we have is that we presume that what was true for us is implicitly true for others who are going through similar experiences. As a millennial who is in the back half of his 30s, I also recognize that I'm losing touch with some issues that are more pressing for Generation Z — which is all the more reason for every generation to have strong representation in elected offices.”

Though heavily outnumbered, millennial politicians are often quite popular; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pete Buttigieg, and Dan Crenshaw among them.

Of course, flaws in electoral politics and valid disillusionment are partly to blame for low millennial political engagement. Still, the future is at our feet, and change is coming — despite that change happening over years, and even decades.

Illustrations of hands and ballots
Illustration by Johnathan Huang for the Goodnewspaper

In the meantime, how do younger politicians keep the momentum going? 

A number of grassroots organizations and boot camps work exclusively with young politicians to change the face of American politics, both on a national level and within their own neighborhoods.

These organizations and boot camps help young leaders get started running for office:

Run For Something

Run For Something aims to “create a party that reflects the changing face of our electorate” by recruiting and supporting young, diverse candidates. They lower the barriers to entry for young candidates by helping with tactical and strategic support, mentorship, training, and fundraising. 

New Politics

New Politics is a bipartisan organization working to revitalize democracy by developing and electing young leaders who put community and country over self; especially those with previous experience in the military, Americorps, or the Peace Corps.

Arena

Arena convenes, trains, and supports the next generation of candidates and campaign staff through training programs, career initiatives, free toolkits and resources, and robust candidate support. 

Besides these robust candidate resources, young politicians need our help to get elected. You can support them by volunteering for or donating to their campaigns, but Royers said the easiest thing you can do is vote.

"If more millennials and Gen Z turn out to vote, it changes the landscape of elections dramatically."

“If more millennials and Gen Z turn out to vote, it changes the landscape of elections dramatically,” Royers said. “I know that many are disillusioned because they feel that lawmakers are failing to address their concerns, but until younger adults vote, it's going to stay that way. If younger voter rates start to go up, you will absolutely see a shift in messaging and campaign agendas to sell themselves to the evolving voter base.”

This article was first published in The Generations Edition of the Goodnewspaper.

You can join thousands of people who subscribe to our monthly Goodnewspaper. Become a subscriber today.

Article Details

July 25, 2022 9:00 AM
Two dingoes touch noses in a park in Australia

Previously hunted as pests, dingoes to be re-classified as a protected species in Australia

Despite pushback from farmers, groundbreaking new DNA research has led Australian officials to consider the protection status of the iconic dingo.
Irene Xagoraraki leads an environmental virology lab at Michigan State University.

The power of poop: Detroit's method for early disease detection is saving lives and inspiring other cities

Wastewater surveillance hit the big time during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when officials started using this technique to monitor local virus levels.
Closeup of a realistically illustrated image of Earth

The 9 Best Positive Political News Stories From 2021

Needless to say, 2021 did not start out great on the democracy front (*cough cough - Capitol insurrection*) — the U.S. and countries around the world went on to make history in areas of politics and policy.
Photograph of Shreya Joshi wearing a red hoodie outdoors

Meet the High School Senior Who Created 'Project Teal' to Get Young People Politically Engaged

Shreya Joshi, a high school sophomore, noticed political polarization at her high school. She founded Project TEAL — which stands for Tolerance, Engagement, Action, and Learning.

Want to stay up-to-date on positive news?

The best email in your inbox.
Filled with the day’s best good news.