Millennials Could Hold The Key To Success Or Failure For Clinton

Sep 25, 2016

Millennials. They're a bunch of tough nuts to crack.

Especially if you are Hillary Clinton and you look at polling which shows that the 18 to 35 year old voters aren’t exactly in love with you.

And you have only about six weeks to convince them that even if they are not crazy about you, you are at least better than the prospect of four years of Donald Trump and that they ought to get over their Bernie Sanders fixations or whatever else might be holding them back, and get on board.

Otherwise, you may be sunk.

Let's look at some numbers:

On Sept. 14, Quinnipiac University's polling institute came out with an independent poll that showed Clinton with a statistically meaningless two percentage point lead over Trump – 41 percent to 39 percent. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, took 13 percent in the Quinnipiac Poll, while the Green Party's Jill Stein was at four percent.

Those were the numbers among all voters.

The poll also broke out numbers by age group.

Get this, the numbers for voters ages 18 to 34: Clinton 31 percent, Johnson 29 percent, Trump 26 percent, Stein 15 percent.

That is astounding.

According to this poll, 44 percent of the Millennial voters would cast ballots for candidates who, quite frankly, have absolutely no chance whatsoever of becoming the 45th president of the United States. And one, Johnson, is in second place!

Will these numbers hold for the next six weeks?

There are three things which could happen:

1.    Large numbers of millennials could have some kind of epiphany and decide that they would be wasting their votes on third party candidates and drift, however reluctantly, to Clinton because they hate the idea of Trump becoming president.

2.    They could stick to their guns and stay with Johnson and Stein.

3.    They could just stay home.

Staying home could certainly happen; young voters generally vote in considerably smaller percentages than older voters.

All the tea leaves now are pointing to a close presidential election. If the millennials stay home, could it make a difference?

"If five to 10 million young people stay home on election day, it absolutely could matter,'' said Mack Mariani, associate professor and chair of the political science department at Xavier University.

Neither Clinton nor Trump are well-liked by the millennials, but Clinton scores far higher than Trump in polling on the question of whether or not she is qualified to be president.

This is why the Clinton campaign has been going out of its way in recent weeks to find ways to reach out to the young voters. Clinton and her surrogates have been touting her plan to allow families with incomes up to $125,000 to pay no tuition at in-state public colleges and universities. In Ohio, that would cover 89 percent of the state's households.

And Clinton has dispatched high-profile surrogates who are special favorites of the Millennial generation – Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and First Lady Michelle Obama – to college campuses, including several in Ohio – with the stated aim of drawing those young people away from the third party candidates and into the Clinton camp.

In the end, Mariani said, he thinks Clinton will win the young voters. But, he said, "the challenge is how many will turn out."

Clinton and her surrogates can speak to the young people about the crushing burden of college debt and climate change and a host of other issues that young people have a stake in, but, in the end, Mariani said, "I think they'll just double-down on the 'Trump is horrible' line."

Young voters are a unique demographic, Mariani said.

"They are young; and they don't have a long history of voting for political parties,'' Mariani said. "They don't have that attachment that would naturally bring them to the Democratic or the Republican candidate. They do whatever they want."

Jared Kamrass is a Democratic strategist who is the principal partner of Rivertown Strategies, a political consulting firm. He is also a millennial himself, at the age of 25.

He takes polling showing third party candidates with relatively high numbers among young voters with a big grain of salt.

"Historically, the polling of third party candidates staggeringly overestimates their strength,'' Kamrass said. "That support tends to fade as the election gets closer.

This election, Kamrass said, is a "binary choice" – either Clinton or Trump. No one else has a chance of being president.

"Millennials now count for more eligible voters than any other generation, but my generation doesn't vote in as high a percentage as other generations,'' Kamrass said.

Young voters, Kamrass said, will be listening to the candidates on issues such as climate change, issues of equality for minorities, women, the LGBT community; and the cost of a college education.

"Hillary has the most progressive stance on student debt than any candidate ever,'' Kamrass said. "That is going to make an impression on a lot of young voters.''

This election, despite the noise it has generated, hasn't gripped the electorate yet, Kamrass said.

"People haven't seen it as crunch time yet; that usually happens in the last few weeks before the election,'' Kamrass said.

Maybe the first presidential debate Monday night at Hofstra University will start the process he said.

"When people start really thinking about this election, you will see the numbers move,'' Kamrass said. "And one thing you will see is young voters moving away from the third party candidates and going to Hillary."

Or, in the worst case scenario for Clinton, those millennials could vote with their feet by not moving them outside their front doors.