WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the 2012 Presidential Election, Barack Obama won the youth vote by a margin of 67 to 30 over his rival Mitt Romney, an impressive lead that was exacerbated by a higher than average turnout amongst young people. Hillary Clinton and her campaign team will want to replicate Obama’s winning strategy. However, the chances of Clinton replicating the Obama coalition will be tough, especially as a key component of that coalition – Americans aged 18-29 – continues to view her negatively.
Hillary Clinton’s favourability amongst 18 to 29 year olds is just 31% (the lowest amongst any cohort), whereas she polls 40% amongst 30-49 year olds, 41% amongst 50-64 year olds and 39% of those 65 and older. This is a stunning turnaround from September 2015, when her favourability amongst young people was 47% – higher than any other age cohort.
Clinton’s under performance is striking when compared to other, leading, Democratic party figures. Obama remains popular in the eyes of most young Americans – 64% of them approve of his job performance, and 65% have a favourable opinion of him personally. Similarly, 69% see Michelle Obama favourably, Bernie Sanders polls 64% and Bill Clinton scores 55%. Clinton also polls lower than the 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, who went on to lose, who enjoyed a 63% favourability rating in July 2004.
Retaining the Obama coalition will be necessary if Clinton wants to win the White House this November. Americans aged 18-29 would be expected to vote strongly in favour of Hillary Clinton at the polls, nearly half identify as Democrats and 31% say they are liberal. However, scepticism surrounding her campaign and a previously enthusiasm for her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, mean that many remain young people remain out of her reach. Clinton has to win these voters as the candidacy of Donald Trump has broken many of the conventional rules surrounding American Presidential politics. Trump is appealing to demographics that Democrats could previously rely on, particularly white blue collar workers, who may be tempted by Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric.
Millennials now outnumber baby boomers as the country’s largest generation. While they are predisposed to vote Democratic, they are not moving to the Clinton camp as they have done in previous elections. The young voters unpersuaded by Hillary Clinton have moved to a variety of locations, not necessarily to her main rival Donald Trump, however, and they’re not all staying home. Many are supporting third party candidates, who are taking advantage of their biggest opportunity to build support since Ross Perot’s bid for the presidency in 1992. Trump’s support amongst millennials stands at 25% whereas more than a third of Americans aged 18-29 are split between either Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, who poll 26% and 10% respectively. And, given the choice of the two main candidates, 10% would not vote at all, twice the amount of any other age group.
Hillary Clinton needs the support of millennials to win the White House, and her best hope at winning them rests on the insurgent Vermont Senator they tried to elect. The Sanders campaign ended in the summer with 12 million votes, 2.5 million donors and an endorsement of his former rival. Whilst many young people still remain cautious in supporting Clinton, Sanders’ July endorsement was crucial, it will almost certainly improve her image amongst young people and, will bring many Sanders supporting holdouts in swing states into the Clinton coalition.
When young Americans, eventually, end up supporting Clinton by large margins, it will be more for a rejection of Donald Trump than a ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
– Cameron Martin, Correspondent (Politics)