At the recent National PAC Conference, I gave a presentation on ways to get younger people involved in public affairs generally and in PACs specifically. As always, I wound up learning just as much from people in the audience as I hope they did from me. There was one topic, however, that I didn’t get a chance to explore at length on that day: Gen X participation.
Recent data suggests that Generation X’s lack of participation in the public square gives public affairs people a real reason to be concerned.
We spend a lot of time trying to understand our clients’ stakeholders through data mining and analysis. Over the past several years, we’ve provided these services to a number of large professional and trade associations and have found a common thread in our analysis that I believe will impact PAC and grassroots managers throughout the industry. Here’s a slide that gives me pause:
No matter how we crunch the data, Generation X comes up short. In the above example, when we combined data for five of the largest trade groups’ PAC participation, you can see that while Millennials have the lowest percentage of participation, they are followed closely by Generation X — who are in prime of their careers. With Generation X starting to take over executive and leadership positions in the business community, it seems they’d be increasingly involved in public affairs activities. But, as the data shows, this is not the case.
OK, I realize statistics never tell the full story. Compared to Boomers and Millennials, relatively little research has been done about Gen Xers and their attitudes about political activity. In order to get to the bottom of the problem, we’d need to understand the reasons that my compatriots aren’t getting involved, which is beyond the scope of this post. But the fact remains that soon Generation X will comprise the senior most positions in the U.S. workforce, and thus, Gen Xers will be tasked with carrying the water for business PACs and grassroots organizations.
So, are we really a bunch of slackers or, like Gen X icon Peter Gibbons from Office Space, do we just not care? And what can we — as public affairs managers — do to engage these individuals?
Let me throw this out into the ether: What has been your experience in engaging people from Generation X? I’d love to hear your feedback! Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.