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New polling shows how millennials threaten the two-party system

(AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

(AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

Millennials have disengaged from some foundational institutions in America — political parties and brands.

A report from Gallup on how millennials want to live and work found that millennials have declared their independence.

“The appeal of major political parties is largely waning among this generation,” the report stated.

Registered independents comprise a millennial plurality — 44 percent declared their non-loyalty, compared to 28 percent identifying as Democrats and 19 percent identifying as Republicans.

That’s better news for Democrats than Republicans. Democrats have 33 percent of independents leaning their way compared to 26 percent who lean Republican.

“More millennials also classify their political views as moderate than they do liberal or conservative, putting millennials’ political inclinations solidly in neutral territory,” the report stated.

Youths don’t trust political parties as much, partially due to disillusionment. President Obama remains popular with millennials, but he also disappointed them. And, with the struggle within the Democratic Party between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, millennials have been averse to switch loyalty from Sanders to Clinton.

Given that voters tend to get more moderate or conservative with age, it gives the Republican Party a chance to grow its support base, even if millennials remain outside the party.

If their political engagement is weak, it might be worse for brand loyalty. Only 25 percent of millennials are “fully engaged,” that is, “emotionally and psychologically attached to a brand, product, or company.”

Their parents and grandparents berate them for always texting or obsessing over the new product on the market, but millennials are fickle in the consumerist sphere.

“Millennial customers are also much more likely to be actively disengaged than any other generation of consumers. In some industries, their level of active disengagement is nearly on par with — or exceeding — their level of engagement,” the report found.

If Apple, Amazon, or Uber want to maintain millennial support, they can’t assume their good name will give them an edge over competitors. Like political parties, millennials could lean toward a company, but they won’t embrace it.

For American society, that independent tendency could be mixed. Rejecting political partisanship in favor of a millennial’s core beliefs could avoid gridlock, leave Americans less susceptible to political posturing, and force parties to respond to voter concerns. Less faith in institutions, however, could lead to alienation and apathy. Not only in politics, but in their communities, companies, and traditional structures.

“Millennials are altering the very social fabric of America and the world,” Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, said in releasing the report.

While that’s overwrought, the core observation in the Gallup report is accurate. Millennials will craft a society that could be less hierarchical, more responsive to individual needs, and more open to diversity. However, those tendencies could also rift social bonds, isolate individuals, and enshrine a competitive norm that drives anxiety.

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