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Sayfie Review Featured Column

by Dr. Susan MacManus
October 15, 2018

Dr. Susan A. MacManus

USF Distinguished University Professor Emerita


David J. Bonanza, Research Associate

Aida Vazquez-Soto, USF Student Research Assistant

Nikhil Patel and Michael Roth, Student Cartographers


Demographers have predicted for some time that the Baby Boomers, once the nation’s largest generation, would ultimately be replaced by Millennials. One of the most interesting aspects of the 2018 election cycle is the generational shift that is taking place among Florida’s registered voters. Few Floridians are aware that today, the three youngest generations (GenXers, Millennials, and GenZers), make up over half (52%) of the state’s registered voters. 

In this analysis, we focus heavily on the two youngest generations—the Millennials (ages 22-37) and the GenZers (ages 18-21). Together, they are 28% of all registrants (Figure 1) and are still collectively referred to by many as Millennials. However, in 2018, the highly-respected Pew Research Center determined the start of a new generation—Generation Z1 (perhaps better labeled the “# Generation”).

Why Generational-Based Analyses?

In an era of microtargeting, using a generational rather than a chronological measure of age is often a much more effective way to develop meaningful campaign messages and more successful Get-Out-the-Vote techniques. Why? Each generation is different demographically and in its exposure to various major economic, social, technological, and political events that can impact vote decisions.  

6 Key Findings

There are six key findings, each accompanied by graphics that drive home the point. Graphics are placed in the order they are referenced at the end of the article.


  1. These two younger generations are considerably more diverse racially/ethnically than the older generations. These younger generations are considerably less  white than older generations. Strikingly, over half of the registered GenZers are nonwhite. (Figure 2.) This diversity affects the way they perceive politics and, in turn, whom they vote for and why. Accessing these voters requires candidates to create narratives and policy proposals that reflect the diverse experiences of these groups.

Events & Formative Experiences

  1. The major social, economic, technological, and political events that have impacted their values and issue priorities differ, offering validation of separating the Millennials and the GenZ generation. (Table 1.) Millennials were subjected to 9/11, foreign conflicts, the Great Recession, and the BP oil spill.  Out of this generation have come the progressive and environmental movements. GenZers have witnessed the rise of major social movements driven by racial and economic injustice (e.g., Black Lives Matter, MeToo Movement, NeverAgain). Polls show them more open to socialism than any previous generation.

Political Affiliations

  1. The younger generations are considerably more disenchanted with the two-party system as it currently exists than their elders. Nearly 40% of the youngest generation (GenZ) is registered as No Party Affiliation; 35% of the Millennials. (Figure 3.) Each generation has lived through just two presidential administrations—one Democrat, one Republican—and nonstop, high-pitched partisan infighting among Washington elites with little change from their perspective in policies directly affecting their young lives—notably education costs. They believe the current system is not working and are in constant search of “new faces in high places.”  

Geographical Concentrations: Political Affiliations (NPAs vs Partisans)

  1. In a growing number of Florida counties, more Millennials and GenZers are registered as NPAs than with either of the two major parties. (Map 1.) The incidence of young NPAs is highest in these counties (from north to south): Flagler/Volusia, Osceola, Charlotte, Lee, and Monroe. In terms of media markets, the highest incidence of Millennials and NPAs is in the Ft. Myers market, the lowest in Tallahassee. (Map 2.)  
  2. The Millennials and GenZers registered as partisans are spread across the State’s 10 media markets. (Map 3.) Predictably, youth party affiliation patterns roughly match those of the older generations--very conservative in the western panhandle, liberal around Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Miami, somewhat conservative in the northeast, somewhat liberal in the I-4 corridor (especially the Orlando area), and somewhat conservative in the southwest. Specifically, there are heavier concentrations of young Democrats in the Miami, West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Tallahassee, and Gainesville markets and of young Republicans in the Pensacola and Panama City markets. Young voters in the Jacksonville and Ft. Myers-Naples markets lean slightly Republican, while those in the state’s battleground I-4 Corridor (the Tampa and Orlando markets) lean slightly Democratic. Among young registrants, partisanship generally increases as you move north, with least partisan markets in southwest FL.

Geographical Concentrations:  Millennial/GenZ Registrants by Media Market

  1. The distribution of Millennial and Gen Z voters is similar to the distribution of all of the state’s registred voters. Nearly half of ALL the state’s registered Millennials and GenZers live in the I-4 Corridor markets of Tampa and Orlando (43.7%). (Map 4.)  Nonetheless, the share of younger  generation registrants varies by media market—ranging from more than 35% in the Tallahassee and Gainesville media markets (university areas) to some 20% in the Ft. Myers-Naples and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce markets (retirement destinations). (Map 5.) These differentials should not be ignored by candidates when devising candidate visit plans, campaign ads, and voter outreach strategies. 

Looking Ahead to November 6, 2018

Millennials and Generation Z are a growing part of the electorate, making up as many as 1 in 3 voters in some areas of the state. Successfully turning out the sizable Millennial and Gen Z vote could very well be the difference between winning and losing for tight races, a common occurrence in Florida. It is a challenge because these youngest generations are not monolithic in their politics, often not “in sync” with the same issues as older voters, and not reachable via the same communication channels as senior voters.

The bottom line, though, is that we are witnessing the passing of the political baton from the Boomers to the Millennials and GenZers—and these younger registrants (the “rising electorate”) neither looks nor acts like their senior counterparts.


  1. Michael Dimock, “Defining Generations: Where Millennials End and Post-Millennials Begin,” Pew Research Center, March 1, 2018. Available at



Figure 1. Millennials and #Generation/Gen Z More Than A Quarter of Registered Voters



Generations: #Generation/Gen Z (born after 1996); Millennials (1981-1996); Generation X (1965-1980); Baby Boomer (1946-1964); Silent Generation (1928-1945); Greatest Generation (before 1928)
Source: Graphic created by Dr. MacManus; calculated from Florida Division of Elections, Florida Voter Registration System data as of August 2018.


Figure 2. A Majority of GenZ Registrants are Nonwhite



Source: Graphic created by MacManus; calculated from Florida Division of Elections, Florida Voter Registration System data as of August 2018.


Table 1. Living Generations: Major Life Events, Presidents  

Source: Generation classifications from Pew Research Center; events by Dr. MacManus.


Figure 3. Younger Voters are Considerably More Likely to Register as NPAs


Generations: #Generation/Gen Z (born after 1996); Millennials (1981-1996); Generation X (1965-1980); Baby Boomer (1946-1964); Silent Generation (1928-1945); Greatest Generation (before 1928)
Source: Graphic created by Dr. MacManus; calculated from Florida Division of Elections, Florida Voter Registration System data as of August 2018.


 Map 1. Most frequent party affiliation of Millennial and Gen Z registered voters by County


Note: This figure shows the most frequent party affiliation among young voters by county. For example, in Hillsborough County there are more young voters registered as No Party Affiliation than with either the Florida Democratic Party or the Republican Party of Florida. In Miami-Dade County, more young voters are registered as Democrats than as Republicans or NPAs.



Map 2. Share of Millennial and Gen Z registered voters with No Party Affiliation (NPA) by Media Market




Map 3. Partisan Differences Among Millennial and Gen Z Registrants by Media Market

Note: This statistic is calculated as the share of Millennials and GenZers registered as Republicans minus the share registered as Democrats in each of Florida’s 10 media markets.



Map 4. Nearly half of ALL Registered Millennials and GenZers live in I-4 Corridor 

(Tampa + Orlando) Markets 



Map 5. Share of registered voters who are Millennials or GenZers in Each Media Market