CBS’s Millennial Voter Q&A Misrepresents Generation

On Nov. 2 CBS aired a four-minute segment on millennial voters. CBS’s Elaine Quijano interviewed a group, aged 18-34, from 12 states, but the resulting package may not have adequately represented the most diverse and progressive generation in the country.

The piece opened with a poll showing Hillary Clinton with a 28-point lead over Donald Trump among 18-29 year olds.

CBS Evening News

CBS Evening News

Another poll showed over half of the generation fears for America’s future.


CBS Evening News

The interview portion presented a different picture. Seven millennials’ made opening remarks. Five were anti-Clinton.

The longest soundbite came from Trump supporter Kaitlyn Grenier, frustrated that people assumed she was uneducated, racist, or Islamophobic.

Instead of broadening the discussion on what millennials fear about the future, Quijano narrowed her first question: “How many of you here have college debt or will soon have college debt?”

An undecided voter from Pennsylvania answered, “By the time I’m finished with my education, I’m going to have over $200,000 in debt. In order to get a better career, you’re forced into higher education … forced into this debt. I don’t think really either candidate has posed a good enough stance.”

Quijano moved to the topic of civil rights with another narrow question. “A recent poll showed that 85 percent of young African-Americans and 72 percent of Hispanics believe their race is under attack in America,” she said. “Why do you think that is?”

An African-American Clinton supporter answered with his personal story about a police officer’s racial bias.

Quijano asked the son of a former police officer—a white Trump supporter—to respond.

He said that he believed there were corrupt officers but ultimately supported the police.

An African-American man responded with his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Trump supporter Kaitlyn Grenier again remarked that race relations had become “worse than they’ve ever been” under President Barack Obama. She was the only millennial to speak twice in the segment.

The last soundbite came from another African-American man responding that Grenier’s statements lacked historical depth.

Quijano ended where she began: “While there were passionate disagreements, one issue united this group—debt.” She explained that many millennials were putting off financial decisions like home ownership or even marriage and were looking for answers from candidates.

Did this piece accurately represent millennial voters and the expanse of issues that they care about?

The two issues Quijano focused on are important to the generation.

A Hofstra University millennial test group found the generation prioritized issues of “race relations [and] the way that race can shape policing and criminal justice,” according to the Washington Post.

As for debt, Pew Research found that millennials are more financially burdened than any other generation. Harstad Strategic Research found that they want lower student debt rates and more affordable education.

Harstad Strategic Research, Inc. reported by The Atlantic

Harstad Strategic Research, Inc. reported by The Atlantic

However, Quijano’s two pointed questions failed to address multiple issues millennials care about.

The Harstad poll found that young Americans place a high value on many equality issues and are “overwhelmingly progressive on key issues like gun safety, climate change and renewable energy, and access to abortion.”

Harstad Strategic Research, Inc., reported by The Atlantic

Harstad Strategic Research, Inc., reported by The Atlantic

CBS’s piece didn’t mention women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, climate change, or gun control.

Additionally, Pew Research found millennials are the most racially diverse generation in American history, with a non-white ratio of 43 percent. In the CBS piece, only four out of 14 soundbites came from non-white speakers.

Former Executive Editor of NPR and Mic, Madhulika Sikka, said that the CBS segment fell into a classic false equivalency trap.

“This generation is overwhelmingly more liberal and diverse than any other,” Sikka said.  “If your only exposure to this generation and what they believe in was this piece, then it would be misleading.”

Sikka said she would have liked voiceovers from minorities addressing “issues that they all care about—like their economic future, climate, etc.—rather than only about race.”

Millennials make up nearly a third of the electorate, and it’s important to cover them… as long as it’s done right.

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