Young women have been central to discussions of the Democratic Party nomination contest between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). Despite sweeping assumptions about young voters and this election, millennials have a relationship with feminism and these two candidates that plays out differently across ethnicities and lifestage in particular.
Specifically, a new national, proprietary, third-party validated survey of more than 1,600 women fielded by SheKnows Media found that there are nuances between those aged 25 to 29 versus those who are aged 30 to 34, and that women of color of all ages often feel excluded from the feminist movement.
1. Women in their late 20s most strongly identify as feminists: Millennial women between the ages of 25 and 29 most strongly identify as being feminist compared to their younger (18-15) and older (30-34) generational counterparts. Fifty-four percent of women in this age group responded to the question with an unequivocal “yes,” matching the passion of Boomer feminists who saw the gains of the second-wave feminist movement first-hand.
2. Feminism's gap: Black and Latina women in particular feel excluded from the primary focus of the feminist movement, with many thinking of it as a “white fight.” It's incumbent on feminism's staunchest evangelists to remember that, in many cases, the fight for women matters most for women of color. As one of my colleagues explained, “As a black woman, the state of racial justice in this country seems more urgent and in need of my attention and activism right now. Feminism seems like something I can let slide for now, and let other people worry about.”
3. The vaunted Sanders millennial vote has gaps: Despite any enthusiasm gap for the feminist movement, it's still critical to know the much-publicized Sanders youth vote is heavily weighted towards white voters. A newly released NBC poll found that black millennials are nearly as lopsided in their support of Clinton as white millennials are for Sanders. This racial gap is especially important to consider because young black women are the most highly engaged millennials when it comes to voting, according to research by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
4. The female tax takes a toll: The study found that the majority of women still experience "the female tax," or that extra cost (both financial and emotional) of being a woman. It's no coincidence that millennial women ages 25 to 29 (those who most strongly identify as feminist) also reported a 10- to 20-point increase in experiencing sexist attitudes and behaviors like feeling marginalized, being interrupted frequently or even overt sexual harassment. These personal experiences may inform why, among all millennial respondents, 77% said that they are personally ready for a female president, but only 54% believed the nation was ready.
5. The hot-button issues: Feminist or not, in many ways millennial women aged 25 to 34 who took the survey stand united on key controversial issues:
- 70% generally support retaining a woman's right to choose an abortion, while 20% generally do not, and only 18% generally oppose funding Planned Parenthood.
- A resounding 88% support equal pay by law.
- More than 80% support marriage equality.
- Millennials are conflicted on the death penalty – an interesting finding considering that Sanders opposes it while Clinton supports it under certain circumstances: 40% generally support it, while 40% generally don’t and another 20% are unsure.
- 59% support the Affordable Care Act.
Millennial women, like all women, are not some monolithic bloc. While they share many social values, they won't all vote the same. And both the candidates have some work to do (as do passionate feminists) to present a more inclusive vision of feminism.
Elisa Camahort Page is SheKnows Media’s Chief Community Officer. The full set of findings from #TheFWord survey created by SheKnows Media and verified by Research Narrative will be available in March 2016.