Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mapping Millennial Mojo

A new USA Today/Ipsos poll finds that voters age 18-35 are most likely to support outsider candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Donald Trump easily leads the field among younger Republicans and independents, at 26%, but that is a lower level of support that the billionaire businessman now holds in the overall electorate. He is backed by 34% of GOP voters in the RealClearPolitics average of recent national surveys.

"I'm not really sure where I stand on him right now," says Acs, the student from New Mexico and a Republican. Trump's support nationwide and in key states means "he must be doing something right," she says, "but I don't know if I would vote for him."

No other Republican contender seems to have broken through, at least not yet. Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are bunched within 3 points of one another. Other contenders are in low single digits.

But among Democrats, there's something of a surprise:

On the Democratic side, among the overall electorate in national polls, Clinton now leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by close to 20 percentage points. But Sanders, the oldest candidate running, has captured the allegiance of younger voters. The 73-year-old democratic socialist from the Green Mountain State is leading Clinton, 46%-35%, among millennial Democrats and independents.

"The Bernie Sanders thing has really got me on board," says McGeary, an IT professional from Seattle. "I was pretty cynical at first about the whole movement — I mean, I supported it, but I had no idea it would pick up this kind of steam." He praises Sanders' reliance on small donors and lumps Clinton in with the Republican field as "people who keep protecting corporations instead of people."

Indeed, he says he might leave the country if Sanders isn't elected because of his frustration that the United States isn't doing more to address issues such as social inequality and health care.

There is an age divide within the millennial generation. Among those 18 to 25 years old, Sanders has a big lead. Among those 26 to 34, Clinton has a small edge.

There is a gender gap as well — and not the one that favors Clinton among baby boomer women. Men under 35 support Sanders by 4 percentage points. Women back him by almost 20 points. The possibility of breaking new ground by electing the first female president apparently carries less persuasive power among younger women than their mothers' generation.

This isn't the first poll to find that Millennial women are backing Sanders and not Clinton.  Whether or not they show up to vote in primaries or in the general, remains very much to be seen as this remains the age group least likely to cast a vote at all in 2016.

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