Just months away from the general election, many voters — particularly millennials — are making it quite clear that they reject the two-party system that has for so long dominated American politics. In 2016, many millennials, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll, are choosing third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson over Donald Trump.
Throughout the primary process, millennials overwhelmingly threw their support behind Bernie Sanders, who put forward an inspiring and ambitious message emphasizing economic justice and promising to reign in the massive institutions that exert such profound influence on the political process.
“It’s hard to overemphasize how completely and utterly Sen. Bernie Sanders dominated the youth vote to this point in the 2016 presidential campaign,” the Washington Post reported in June. “In the 2016 campaign, Sanders won more votes among those under age 30 than the two presumptive major-party presidential nominees combined. And it wasn’t close.”
But, after Sanders conceded the race to Hillary Clinton and began urging his supporters to do the same, some are proving hesitant to follow his lead.
In July, The Hill reported on a poll showing that almost half of Sanders’s millennial backers said they were considering voting for a third party candidate, firmly rebuking the “lesser of two evils” argument.
Some commentators have openly speculated that many Sanders supporters, angry at Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party for the way they handled the primary process, would defect to Trump, attracted by his anti-establishment fervor.
This speculation has so far proven to be rather baseless. Millennials, according to polling data, are overwhelmingly rejecting Trump.
“The McClatchy poll shows Trump pulling just 1 in 10 votes — 9 percent — among Americans under 30 years old,” reports the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake. “Hillary Clinton is at 41 percent, while Johnson is at 23 percent and Stein is at 16 percent. Trump is basically tied with ‘undecided,’ which is at 8 percent.”
This is not surprising, given millennials’ diversity and left-leaning economic and social views.
“People born after 1980 are more racially diverse and socially liberal than any other age group, a 2014 Pew study found, and in the Harvard poll in November, 56 percent of voters age 18 to 29 said they want a Democrat in the White House, compared with 36 percent who would prefer a Republican,” the New York Times reports.
The Times also added a crucial point, one that is a positive sign for third parties looking to gain traction amidst two-party dominance: “40 percent of those in this age group say they are politically independent.”
While Hillary Clinton leads the other presidential candidates among millennials, she struggled to earn their support throughout the primary process, as many view her as a representation of the status quo they so ardently oppose.
Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic notes that, though Clinton is doing far better than Trump among millennials, their skepticism of her ability to deliver on her progressive promises represents a serious challenge moving forward.
“Though the Democratic convention has lifted Clinton’s overall poll standing, her hold on Millennials has consistently looked less secure than her position with college-educated whites (especially women) and minorities, the two other pillars in President Obama’s winning coalition,” Brownstein writes. “Even amid all the disarray now enveloping Trump, Clinton’s long-standing struggles with young voters remain a dark cloud in her brightening prospects.”
It is clear that Clinton, to garner support among millennials strongly considering backing a third party candidate, will have to do far more than present a negative case against Donald Trump.
Millennials are increasingly faced with an economy that, while showing signs of improvement in the jobs department, is not delivering for most Americans. Saddled with student loan debt and anxious about the future, millennials have shown that they are eager for a candidate who voices their concerns and presents an ambitious agenda that addresses the nation’s deepest economic and political crises.
Trump has decidedly not met the criteria millennials have set; Clinton has struggled mightily, as well.
“They want to vote for somebody who has positive positions that they think will make America better,” said pollster Andrew Baumann in an interview with The Atlantic, “and at least before the convention they weren’t seeing that from Hillary Clinton.”
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]