Millennials Are Now Moving Toward Clinton, But Will They Turn out and Vote?

Millennials, the young people who comprise the largest block of eligible voters, have turned away from Donald Trump in recent weeks and increasingly are lining up behind Hillary Clinton. But many still feel that no presidential candidate is going to bring the revolutionary changes they want, raising big questions about whether they will even turn out and vote this fall.

That is the cautiously upbeat message from the latest poll by Democracy Corps, founded by longtime Democratic consultants James Carville and Stanley Greenberg.

“Millennials are poised to give Hillary Clinton and Democrats a big margin in November's election if they are engaged to vote and if progressives are smart in dealing with the third-party vote,” said their latest survey of likely millennial voters in the 11 most competitive battleground states for Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund. “Millennial voters are in a very different place than they were two weeks ago… Democratic millennials have started to consolidate for Clinton, but their Republican contemporaries have not done the same for Trump. [Libertarian] Gary Johnson's millennial vote is now a repository for most of those anti-Trump Republicans.”

In a four-way race, Clinton had 54 percent of the millennial vote, compared to 29 percent for Trump, 14 percent for Johnson and 3 percent for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. In contrast, in 2012, Democrat Barack Obama had 64 percent of the millennial vote, while Republican Mitt Romney had 34 percent.

“Clinton is wining huge margins with unmarried women, including white unmarried women (+41 Clinton and +22, respectively), and is winning 78 percent of minority millennial voters,” the pollsters said. “She has a 12 point margin with white college graduates, including a 20 point margin with the white college women, and gets a respectable 44 percent with white working class millennial women.”

But the big question is whether these young people will be motivated to turn out and vote. Here, Democracy Corps said the dynamics were different at opposite ends of the political spectrum. On the Republican side, Trump has not been able to increase his support among people who identify as Republicans, the pollsters said. Instead, Gary Johnson’s support appears to come from that party’s non-Trump wing.

“Republicans… are not consolidating around Trump—and that has allowed Clinton’s margin to grow,” they said. “Trump is getting just three-quarters of the Republican millennials in a four-way vote and it gets no better after messaging at the end of the survey (77 percent). In a two-way ballot, he gets only 85 percent of GOP identifiers at the beginning and end of the survey. That 15 percent is determined not to support Trump.”

“Gary Johnson's voters are mostly Republican anti-Trump voters, and progressives should allow Johnson to play that role,” they counseled. “Attacks on Johnson do not have much of an impact on his vote and the margin. In fact, this survey includes an experiment that shows third party voters shift 8 points to Clinton in a two-way ballot when they instead hear messages about corporate responsibility, and a contrast with Trump on taxes and trickle-down economics. Attacks on Johnson only produce a 1 point shift.”

But the survey was not all good news for the Clinton campaign. Only half of the millennials surveyed said they were “extremely interested” in voting. When asked about issues, they resoundingly sound as if they are reciting lines from Bernie Sanders’ speeches, calling for a "revolution" to sweep away corporate greed, oppressive institutions and embrace dignity.

“Millennials want big change and are deeply frustrated with an irresponsible corporate America and its undue influence over politicians,” the pollsters said. “The intensity of their feelings is hard to underestimate. Nearly 60 percent of millennials say 'we need a revolution in this country and we don’t have time for incremental change'—including 50 percent of Clinton voters. That gets your attention.”

“The focus of their revolutionary angst is the regime of trickle-down economics and corporate governance,” they continue, referring to policies and laws benefiting the richest people and businesses in the belief that if they do well that largesse will be shared with average workers. “Just 18 percent of millennials have a favorable reaction to ‘trickle-down economics’ and their antipathy crosses party lines. They blame the big banks and corporate CEOs they believe use government to lock in unfair advantages while betraying their workers and paying too little in taxes. Millennials are primed for a message that aims to raise taxes on the rich and reign in corporations, particularly the third party voters who are the most negative towards corporate executives and banks.”

In Clinton’s speeches and those of her surrogates, including Bernie Sanders, the Democratic nominee has not backed down from embracing a populist and progressive economic platform, from her pledge to make public universities tuition-free for most households, cutting student loan interest rates, more aggressively regulating Wall Street financial institutions, and a domestic stimulus that rebuilds infrastructure including a new national green energy grid and big shift to solar power.

Curiously, in recent weeks, Clinton has not moderated any of these stances as she has been endorsed by an unprecedented number of current and former Republican office holders, White House staffers, CEOs and business executives and major newspapers in red states. This latest Democracy Corps survey suggests she should run harder to the left to turn out the young voters who have begun to move in her direction. The difference could mean not just winning in November by a decisive margin, but emerging with a mandate for progressive change.  

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