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Colorado Focus Issue 2 – Our growing (up) millennials

February 12, 2020

Colorado’s population is increasingly dominated by the 24- to 34-year-old age group. In this series, where we are looking at what we can learn from Colorado’s 10-year transition from a reliably red to a solidly blue state, today’s issue looks at the role of this age group. If you aren’t yet as obsessed as we at Adamantine are with the topic of millennials and their role in the future of oil and gas, look back at our Millennial installment.

Both of these things are true:

  • The growing political, economic, and social significance of millennials — increasingly liberal and concerned about oil and gas — has been on display in Colorado in the last 10 years.
  • The only successful path forward for oil and gas companies is to embrace and engage millennials.

The situation

Not surprising to anyone who lives in a growing urban area in Colorado, the 25- to 34-year-old age group is the state’s fastest growing cohort. As shown in the figure below, the growth of this age group in the last ten years has been steep. At the same time, my own age group, 45 to 55, is shrinking.  

As we discussed in the Millennial installment, this generation is poised to dominate other generations across the U.S. in sheer numbers, political relevancy, and purchasing power. For what we can learn from Colorado, we are interested in how millennials behave politically. (As a refresher, millennials are the generation born between 1981 and 1996; they are between ages 23 and 38.)

Younger generations are expected to lean liberal, but it’s worth noting how dramatically millennials are leaning Democratic. 

In 2017, 59% of millennial-registered voters identified as “Democrat” or “leaning Democrat,” compared to 48% of Boomers and Generation X.  You can see the millennial trend in the figure below from Pew.

Of course, there are a significant number of conservative millennials; however, even when conservative, millennials demonstrate more concern over climate and less support for oil and gas than other generations, as shown in the figure below. Take a particular look at these numbers: 59% of millennials identifying as Republican believe climate change is having some effect on the U.S. and less than half (47%) are in favor of expanding fracking. 

It matters because:

Colorado’s growing millennial population may be relocating to your operating area if our housing prices continue to rise. Whether or not they do, your local millennials are a force to be both reckoned with externally and leveraged internally.

The critical mistakes companies are making:

Thinking about millennials the same way all of us non-millennials did 10 years ago. 

Seize the day.   Successful companies will: 

  • Respect them. You will find millennials in elected office, holding key policy positions, and leading community organizations. They are discerning, intelligent, and engaged. They are also in your company!
  • Meet them on their turf. We must meet millennial stakeholders on their terms and in their terminology. We have the opportunity to ask questions and listen carefully about how and where they gather information and whom they trust. As a result, your company may want to move some communications to online community platforms and create frequently asked question (FAQ) documents that target their interests and concerns.
  • Activate the millennials on your team. You can engage your company’s millennials  to create your strategy. Fortunately, the oil and gas industry has its own vibrant, diverse, engaged, and passionate millennials. Work with them on your front-line engagement and to develop your outreach strategy.

We will continue looking at what North America can learn from Colorado’s pendulum swing against the oil and gas industry. If your experience was different than ours, we want to hear about it — reach out.

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