Tracking The Race For The Millennial Vote

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pbs-debate-stageWelcome back to another week in the election that never ends. Have you started to wonder what life was like before every waking moment was consumed by the presidential race?

Oh, good. We’re not alone then. I remember liking movies, and talking about music with people, but that’s about all I got. Don’t worry, this will all be over soon. Before that happens, let’s look at how the candidates are doing with the youth vote and what shenanigans they played to get their attention.

What The Polls Tell Us

The first presidential debate was this week, and while Republican candidate Donald Trump likes to point out that he won a bunch of online polls—more about that later—the scientific polls (i.e. the real polls) told a different story.

Most significant for our purposes were two polls by Public Policy Polling. The first was a flash-poll that covered the debate itself:

Perhaps most important for Clinton is that among young voters, who she has underperformed with, 63% think she won the debate to only 24% for Trump. 47% of voters in that age group said the debate tonight made them more likely to vote for her, to only 10% who say it made them less likely to vote for her. For Trump with that group on the other hand, only 23% said the debate made them more likely to vote for him to 39% who said it made them less likely to.

This was backed up by other polls, like one from the Harvard Institute of Politics that was quoted by Vox, and given a little more ammunition by another PPP poll later in the week which dug into the battleground states. For those not up on the lingo: those are the states that the campaigns are really fighting over for in this election. In each of those states the PPP poll had Hillary Clinton with at least a 19 point lead over Trump.

So we know that the conventional wisdom is that Clinton has a “millennial problem”, but with numbers like these you have to wonder why we aren’t talking about Trump having a problem with the youth vote. While politics is mostly a game of expectations, this just doesn’t look good for him in these critical states.

There’s one bit of good news for The Donald. The Washington Post, his arch-nemesis (okay, one of his arch-nemeses), says that millennials trust him more than Clinton to regulate Wall Street.

Donald Trump visits Melbourne/Orlando International Airport (MLB). This is a panorama of the hangar and the over 10,000 people (Trump stated that it exceeded 12,000) in attendance. Image: Michael Seeley (September 27, 2016)
Donald Trump visits Melbourne/Orlando International Airport (MLB). This is a panorama of the hangar and the over 10,000 people (Trump stated that it exceeded 12,000) in attendance. Image: Michael Seeley (September 27, 2016)

Where The Campaigns Appeared

So what did the Big Two do to court the youth vote in person?

Let’s look at where the candidates and their chief surrogates showed up this week:

Trump/Pence (Republican)

Sep. 27th Donald Trump: Town Hall at Miami Dade College’s Koubek Memorial Center, Miami, FL

Sep. 28th Governor Mike Pence: Leetonia High School, Leetonia, OH

Clinton/Kaine (Democratic)

SEP 28th Secretary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders: New College Compact Event, Durham, NH

SEP 28th Michelle Obama: LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA

SEP 28th Chelsea Clinton: College Affordability Forum, Mendenhall Student Center, Greenville, NC

Policy Statements & Outreach

This week NPR looked at Donald Trump’s education plans, which no less than the American Enterprise Institute—a right-wing think tank—dismissed as “performance art.” Later in the week, Trump outlined his idea to make college more affordable. In a nutshell: put pressure on schools with big endowments.

For her part, Hillary Clinton hit the campaign trail with millennials’ favorite candidate: Bernie Sanders. The pair promoted tuition-free college in a New Hampshire campaign stop on Wednesday.

How The Internet Is Impacting The Campaigns

Online, no one knows if you’re a dog, a millennial, or a septuagenarian dog pretending to be a millennial hactivist pretending to be a troll pretending to be an anime character. So this next section isn’t so much about the youth vote as it is the environment that the youth vote is marinating in.

Let’s start with the fun: the Trump campaign bought a Snapchat geofilter for Monday night’s presidential debate, which let you show that you were there when he took on “Crooked Hillary.” Hey: if you got a drum, beat it. As the polls show, the debate didn’t do him that many favors, even if the online activists of Reddit and 4Chan did all they could to tip the online polls in favor of Trump.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the debate, some Hillary fans took a liking to the little shimmy she did on stage, making gifs and even a whole music video centered on it.

Elsewhere in Trollville, all may not be well, if The Daily Beast is to be believed. On the night of the debate some of the posters on the web’s wooliest forums were riding a wave of disappointment. There’s probably a lesson here about perception, reality, and manufacturing mental filters. But hey: this is just a wrap-up about what’s going on, not a media philosophy class.

Diving a little deeper into substance: we picked our way through the center of the alt-right media machine — Breitbart — this week to see how much coverage there is there of the youth vote. What stood out to us: that most of the talk about the youth vote is limited to posts about what the Clinton campaign and its surrogates are doing in order to turn out the under-30 set.

That, as much as any other piece of hard data or anecdotal observation says about all there is to know about this week in the battle to capture young voters attention.


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