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The Airbnb logo. Photograph by Getty Images

Airbnb Wants Politicians to Know That Millennials Love the ‘Sharing Economy’

Jul 26, 2016

Airbnb wants politicians at this week's Democratic National Convention to know one thing: Millennials love the “sharing economy.”

The home-sharing service released the results on Tuesday of a poll it conducted that found that 67% of Americans have a favorable impression of it and fellow sharing economy services like Uber and Lyft. Support among millennials, described as people age 18 to 34, was even higher with nearly three-quarters saying they had a positive view of the industry.

Airbnb's policy chief, Chris Lehane, presented the results at a media event at the DNC in Philadelphia alongside Uber advisor David Plouffe and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who is now an advisor to Airbnb. The message was clear to politicians: Support these companies, or risk upsetting voters.

The survey found that half of Americans had positive opinions about Airbnb as an individual company, despite common criticism that it results in illegal hotels and exacerbates the housing shortage in cities like San Francisco. Millennials had an even more positive view with 58% of millennials saying they have a favorable view of Airbnb.

Airbnb, which is fighting off restrictive regulations in several cities across the country, emphasized millennials in the polling because of their perceived influence in the voting booth. They account for 31% of eligible U.S. voters, making them the largest segment of voters by population. They've also been especially ignited by former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. As a recent story in the Washington Post points out, they're as interested in politics are previous generations and show it through participation in rally and protests.

Yet despite their numbers, millennials don't vote as much as older generations. Therefore, they have less impact in elections than they would otherwise.

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Of the 1,500 Americans that Airbnb polled in its latest research, two-thirds were millennials. But Airbnb said it adjusted their representation so that the results would be better representative of the entire population, an Airbnb spokesman told Fortune.

It's also important to take a step back when considering awareness and popularity of sharing economy services among the general population. Although many people summon Uber and Lyft rides to get to work or the grocery store, and book weekend vacations through Airbnb, it's hardly universal.

According to a Pew Research report in May, only 15% of Americans have used a ride-hailing service while only 11% have used a home-sharing site. And while it found that 72% of Americans it surveyed have used one “sharing economy” or “on-demand” service, the report covered a wide range of services in that category including crowdfunding, renting clothes, and shared offices.

Moreover, it found that most Americans have never heard of terms like “sharing economy” or “gig economy.” While this doesn't mean they're unaware of the services themselves, merely of these fancy terms, it does signal that their marketers have a lot of work to do before Americans start chanting “sharing economy” at a political rally.

But at least for the week, both Airbnb and Uber are in friendly territory: Uber is the exclusive transportation partner for the DNC, while Philadelphia was the first major U.S. city to pass legislation legalizing home-sharing last year.

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