Pollster Della Volpe Speaks on the Millennial Mind – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Pollster Della Volpe Speaks on the Millennial Mind

While serving in the office of Governor Michael Dukakis in the 1980s, HWS President Mark Gearan worked with a promising young intern named John Della Volpe. On Oct. 18, Gearan welcomed Della Volpe, now director of polling at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and founder and CEO of SocialSphere, Inc., a data and social media analytics company, to present a President’s Forum Series lecture, titled “Millennial Mind.”

John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard University's Institute of Politics and founder and CEO of SocialSphere, Inc., speaks about the election and the role and influence of polling during the President's Forum in the Geneva Room on Tuesday.
John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and founder and CEO of SocialSphere, Inc., speaks about the election and the role and influence of polling during the President’s Forum in the Geneva Room on Tuesday.

In his introduction, Gearan noted the Washington Post recently called Della Volpe “one of the world’s leading authorities on understanding global sentiment, opinion and influence — particularly among millennials in the age of digital and social media.”

Speaking during the intense last days of this year’s election season, Della Volpe shared his insights into the role of millennials, born roughly between 1980 and 2000, in choosing our national leaders. “They are the largest generation in the history of America,” he said. “They are 25 percent of the population and one third of the work force.”

Della Volpe and his team at Harvard recently released a five point “millennial agenda” which speaks, he said, to the issues that are most important to this generation. He detailed the five issues of most concern for millennials with his HWS audience:

  • millennials seek leadership on the economy;
  • they seek leadership both at home and abroad in handling terrorism;
  • they are old enough to remember 9/11, and seek a country that can be united as the U.S. was in the days following the attacks;
  • they are deeply concerned over inequality in all its many facets;
  • and they wish to reduce the role of big money in politics.

According to Della Volpe, the millennial generation first played a significant political role in the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama. He also noted millennials highly value the experience of community service, but not of voting, which he believes is due to the less tangible feeling of accomplishment that comes with the latter. But he was very impressed with the HWS student body, which recently was named “Top Campus of All Time” by Turbovote based on the percentage of enrolled students who have registered to vote in the past two years. “There’s something special on this campus,” he said.

Established in the winter of 2000, the President’s Forum Series is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members. Recent guests include Michael B. Curry ’75, the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church; HWS Trustee and “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker ’73, L.H.D. ’97; and The Hon. Shireen Avis Fisher ’70, Justice of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone.