Who are the Millennials?

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People between the ages of 18 and 29 make up more than one-fifth of all U.S. voters, according to Tufts University’s CIRCLE. Numbering about 46 million, those born after 1980 are the most diverse in race and ethnicity than any previous generation in the United States.

In 2009, some 61 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds in the nation were white, 19 percent were Latino, 14 percent were black, and 5 percent Asian, according to Pew’s Millennials report, which relied on multiple surveys, each of about 1,000 to 2,000 young adults.

MillennialsThe proportion of minorities in this age group is expected to keep growing, even as the share of whites shrinks. As a whole, Millennials are less religious than their parents or grandparents, highly comfortable with technology, and on track to become the most educated of U.S. generations, according to Pew.

But that doesn’t mean they all attend college, a common misconception about young voters. In fact, 42 percent of Millennials have no education beyond high school, and of that group, only three out of five finished high school, according to a CIRCLE analysis of U.S. Census data. That difference in education is critical: Young people with no college education are less likely to register and to vote than peers who have attended college, according to the Pew report. (See Main story: In Youth Vote, Turnout is Key)

Another common misconception about young voters, researchers say, is that they all vote Democratic.

In fact, newly registered Millennial voters were most likely to choose “Independent” as their affiliation – 38 percent – compared to 37 percent who identified as Democrat and 22 percent who identified as Republican, according to Pew.

However, a Pew survey of more than 18,000 registered voters in 2009 found that when independents were asked to identify which party they leaned toward, a total of 57 percent of Millennials identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared to 35 percent who identified with or leaned toward the GOP.

Photo from Pew's Millenials report.

Kaukab Jhumra Smith is Youth Today’s Washington, D.C. correspondent.