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Government and law major William Johnson ’02 (Winnetka, Ill.) is determining the political significance of the so-called “Millennial generation” as an honors thesis. Together with his adviser, James Lennertz, associate professor of government and law, Johnson is working to determine what effect this group may have on the future political scene.

“The ‘Millennials’ are the generation born during a baby bulge that demographers locate between 1982 and 1996. They are the sons and daughters of baby boomers. They are 80 million strong and more then three times the size of Generation X,” explains Johnson. “They are the largest, healthiest, and most cared-for generation in American history. It is my contention that the Millennials will become a critical swing vote as early as the 2004 election cycle.”

Johnson cites four reasons for this theory: the sheer size of this group, greater political activism due to its upbringing, and enhanced voting technology that will promote larger voter turnouts. Johnson also believes that the recent Florida recount during the presidential election of 2000, which he terms “an important civics lesson for this generation,” proves that every vote counts.

For his thesis, Johnson plans to explain how to market a candidate or party to the Millennial generation using a variety of strategies. Lennertz is impressed with his student’s progress so far.

“William is trying to figure out how to engage this group’s attention and civic sense. The traditional attitude is that young people don’t vote, but William is making progress on these issues. I think his work will be a real contribution to the debate,” he says.

Johnson credits his mentor and Lafayette’s small student-to-faculty ratio with helping him complete this detailed research.

“I am very glad to be working with Professor Lennertz. He is always available when I need him,” he says. “He is very creative about solving problems, and he keeps me focused on the big picture.”

He adds, “The close relationships that you develop with professors due to the small student-to-professor ratio makes it much easier to find an instructor you know well and are comfortable with when it comes time to do an independent project.”

In addition to honing his research skills, Johnson is hopeful that his work may have an impact on the voting patterns of young people.

“The most fundamental act of citizen participation in the world’s leading democracy is the right to vote for the head of the executive branch of the government, who is also its commander in chief, the President. In recent elections, participation by young voters has been extremely low. I think it is important that we find ways to get our young Americans more involved in the political process — they are the future of our democracy.”

Categorized in: Academic News