Millennials lack enthusiasm for Clinton, Trump

Millennials lack enthusiasm for Clinton, Trump
© Getty Images

Millennial voters are not satisfied with the choice between Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonCNN to air 'The Russian Connection: Inside the Attack on Democracy' Tuesday night Did Democrats really have Georgia on their minds? Changing America: America’s growing education divide MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPentagon: 'Active preparations' for another chemical attack in Syria Trump team battling Disney over speech in ‘Hall of Presidents’ attraction: report Spicer to hold first on-camera press briefing in a week MORE, a dynamic that has hindered the Democrat’s efforts to put Trump away.  

According to recent polls, neither Trump nor Clinton has a majority, much less the level of support that President Obama enjoyed each of his victories. 

Republicans haven’t made a play at the youth vote since 2000, so Democrats hope that young voters will return home down the stretch.

ADVERTISEMENT
But in a year where dissatisfaction with the political system has turned the sights of millennials to unconventional candidates, it’s unclear how the vote will ultimately shake out.   

Polling suggests a positive trend for Clinton with millennials, and the release of video showing Trump making vulgar comments about women in 2005 won't likely sit well with those voters.

But the lack of enthusiasm felt by young voters interviewed by The Hill is clear. That’s a complication for Clinton, who hopes to be the beneficiary of the Obama coalition.  

John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, said that results from his recent focus group of eight undecided millennial voters in Philadelphia should worry Clinton.  

“A lot of them have a harder time than I expected understanding the difference that President Trump would have in their personal life compared to President Clinton,” he told The Hill. 

“That is very scary for Hillary Clinton.” 

Obama cleaned up with young voters in 2012, winning 60 percent of the 18-to-29-year-old vote, according to exit polls. He eclipsed that mark in the major swing states of Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.  

While Clinton outperforms Trump with the same bloc, she’s far from matching Obama’s heights, particularly in the key battleground states.  

But there’s been promising movement toward Clinton as the election draws nearer, particularly from third-party candidates.  

A September poll of under 35-year-old voters by liberal-leaning NextGen Climate surveyed found that 48 percent of likely swing state voters under the age of 35 back Clinton, compared to just 23 backing Trump. That’s a slight gain from the group’s July polling.   

And a new Quinnipiac poll released Friday showed Clinton gaining 17 percentage points with the under 35 voters since the middle of September, with Libertarian Gary JohnsonGary JohnsonMueller to give first speech since taking on Russia probe Poll: 85 percent of Clinton supporters would vote for her again Open primaries are the answer to America’s election woes — so what are we waiting for? MORE and Green Jill Stein losing 24 percentage points between them. She now sits at 48 percent with those voters. 

She’s also seen movement from young voters in swing state polls, particularly in Pennsylvania. Franklin and Marshall College’s polling of likely young voters showed a net 22-point improvement between the college’s August and October polls to 55 percent.  

That trend comes as Clinton stepped up her game with young voters over the last month—giving a speech asking for a “fair hearing” from millennials and adding more events with Bernie SandersBernie SandersOPINION: Destroy McConnellCare, RyanCare and TrumpCare travesties Dems face identity crisis Sanders: GOP healthcare bill 'barbaric and immoral' MORE. Trump hasn't put a significant focus on millennial voters, but he's argued more broadly that Sanders's primary backers will flock to him because of his position on trade. 

But there are still warning signs, particularly in Ohio, where the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Trump just 1 point behind Clinton in Ohio with likely voters under 30, according to a Thursday poll. That number is dramatically dampened by third party candidates, as Clinton’s lead there swells to a 15-point lead in a one-on-one.  

Della Volpe said that his focus group participants are “far more cynical and far more distrusting of traditional political institutions than any time in recent memory.” That led descriptions of Clinton with phrases like “shady but knowledgeable.” Trump won less praise: “a hot-tempered, judgmental bully.”   

He added that the focus group suggested their ambivalence could lead them to stay home. 

“It’s going to be a decision between Clinton, Johnson and the couch, because Trump isn’t really a strong contender to pick up any more,” he said. 

That lack of excitement meshed with reactions from college students interviewed by The Hill at Longwood University the day the institution hosted last Tuesday’s vice presidential debate in the battleground state of Virginia. 

All Longwood five students who spoke with The Hill decried the negative tone of the campaign, saying it has hurt their peers’ perception of the candidates.  All of these interviews came before the release of the vulgar video by The Washington Post, which showed Trump talking about trying to bed a married woman and argue that women will let him "do anything" to them because he's famous.

“This whole back-and-forth, it takes away the importance of the issues,” said Tonisha Pitchford, a 21-year old senior from Richmond who voted for Obama in 2012. “I want to know what you are going to do to help me and help the country, not how bad someone looks or how this person isn’t paying their bills.” 

“It’s child’s play between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but we didn’t see that in 2012,” she added, noting that Obama had a much stronger connection with young voters than either candidate does.   

Pitchford said that while she’s undecided, in the end, she’ll likely vote for Clinton, arguing that she doesn’t believe a country can be run like a business.  

Thomas Riordan, an 18-year-old freshman from Virginia Beach, said that while he voted for Marco RubioMarco RubioWhy liberals should support Trump — not Obama — on Cuba policy The Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nation Rubio: 'I hope' Mexican elections won't end partnership against cartels MORE in the primary, he believes he’ll end up in Clinton’s corner too because she’s a “better alternative than Trump.’ 

But for Emily Neighbors, a 20-year-old junior from Verona, Va., she’s still not ready to commit despite backing Ben Carson in the primary. 

“I know I’m not voting for Hillary. For me, it’s between Trump and Gary Johnson,” she said. 

“[Trump] is always flying off the handle, he’s always trying to attack Hillary and not focusing on the issues. I will probably end up voting for Trump, but I want to wait.”  

But despite their split allegiances, Pitchford, Riordan and Neighbors all agree that they would have enthusiastically voted for Bernie Sanders if he was the Democratic nominee. 

“If it was an election between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, I would be voting for Bernie Sanders 100 percent. No reservations,” said Neighbors.  

“I lean toward Republicans and conservatives, but I don’t think Donald Trump is a good representation of the party. Bernie Sanders would do a lot more for our country than either Hillary or Trump could do.” 

Sanders’s popularity with young voters makes him one of Clinton’s most vital surrogates down the stretch, as she deploys him to turn out young voters. She joined him earlier this month for a panel on college affordability.  

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters before the vice presidential debate at Longwood University that he feels confident about the campaign’s millennial support, pointing to Sanders’ involvement and his belief that Trump’s outlook will repel young voters.  

He estimated that millennials could make up one quarter of the electorate, enough to be the largest age group of the 2016 electorate.  

“We have seen an increase in support among millennial voters after the first debate, but that was on top of nearly a 2-1 advantage we have with millennial voters,” he said.  

“Secretary Clinton is going to win this campaign because of millennial voters.”