Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is consolidating the support of the Millennials who fueled Bernie Sanders’ challenge during the primaries, a new USA TODAY/Rock the Vote Poll finds, as Republican Donald Trump heads toward the worst showing among younger voters in modern American history.
The survey shows Clinton trouncing Trump 56%-20% among those under 35, though she has failed so far to generate the levels of enthusiasm Sanders did — and the high turn-out that can signal — among Millennials.
“I get worried about the bigoted element of our country, and that they will stick with Trump regardless of his stupidity,” says Elizabeth Krueger, 31, an actress in New York City who was among those surveyed. She supports Clinton. “She is not going to be a perfect president, but who would be?”
The findings have implications for politics long past the November election. If the trend continues, the Democratic Party will have scored double-digit victories among younger voters in three consecutive elections, the first time that has happened since such data became readily available in 1952. That could shape the political affiliations of the largest generation in American history for years to follow.
In the new survey, half of those under 35 say they identify with or lean toward the Democrats; just 20% identify with or lean toward the Republicans. Seventeen percent are independents, and another 12% either identify with another party or don’t know.
Trump’s weakness among younger voters is unprecedented, lower even than the 32% of the vote that the Gallup Organization calculates Richard Nixon received among 18-to-29-year-old voters in 1972, an era of youthful protests against the Vietnam War.
In 2008 and 2012, overwhelming support among voters under 30 was a crucial part of Barack Obama’s winning coalitions. But that doesn’t reflect long-held partisan preferences. The Gallup analysis shows that as recently as 2000 younger voters split evenly between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush, and the GOP’s presidential candidates carried their support by double digits in 1984 and 1988.
Now some younger Republicans, like their elders, are torn between concerns about Trump and support for their party.
“At first I supported Ben Carson, and when he dropped out, I was supporting Ted Cruz, and I wasn’t left with much when he left,” Serena Potter, 19, of Brownsburg, Ind., a student at Purdue University, said in a follow-up phone interview after being polled. Now, asked whom she supports, she replies, “If there was a gun to my head, I’d say Trump. … He is better than Hillary.”
The Millennials survey, the third this year, is part of USA TODAY’s One Nation initiative, a series of forums across the country on the most important issues of 2016. The online poll of 1,539 adults age 18-34 was taken by Ipsos Public Affairs from Aug. 5-10. It has a credibility interval, akin to the margin of error, of 4.6.
Census Bureau data released in April estimated the number of Millennials in the United States at 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million members of the aging Baby Boom generation, now 51-69.