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Hillary Clinton’s Youth Problem Is Also a White Problem

Young voters of all races favored Bernie Sanders, but after the primaries, Clinton was able to win many of them over—except for millennial whites, a new poll shows.

Hillary Clinton at the Rainbow Push Women’s International Luncheon in Chicago last month.   Photo: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

Coming out of the primaries, a couple narratives gained prominence: Bernie Sanders’s surprisingly successful challenge to Hillary Clinton was borne by the support of young white men, and Donald Trump’s surprisingly successful challenge to the entire GOP was due to older white men.

There’s some truth to both narratives; Trump’s base is clear from the polling, and Terrell Jermaine Starr has compelling evidence in his new piece for Fusion that the candidate and his campaign botched whatever appeal they might have had to young black voters.

But a new poll from GenForward of people 18-30—a collaboration between the University of Chicago’s Black Youth Project and the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research—provides an interesting challenge to this, and as the first poll in what is to be a monthly series, promises more.

Start with the race between Sanders and Clinton, and which candidate respondents wanted to win the Democratic nomination. Sanders swept among 18-30 year olds, getting majority support among African-Americans, though his support there was softer than among other groups.

African-American Asian-American Latino/a Non-Hispanic White
Sanders Clinton Sanders Clinton Sanders Clinton Sanders Clinton
53% 39% 69% 21% 71% 24% 62% 32%
SOURCE: GenForward

Sanders also dominated the percent viewing each candidate favorably, potentially predictive of which way voters will go if their favored candidate loses:

African-American Asian-American Latino/a Non-Hispanic White
Sanders Clinton Sanders Clinton Sanders Clinton Sanders Clinton
73% 64% 78% 55% 73% 49% 55% 27%
SOURCE: GenForward

So who are these 18- to 30-year-olds going to vote for?

  African-American Asian-American Latino/a Non-Hispanic White
Clinton 52% 55% 42% 30%
Trump 2% 6% 8% 26%
Someone else 18% 18% 26% 22%
Probably no one 17% 14% 17% 15%
Undecided 10% 8% 6% 6%
SOURCE: GenForward

Clinton seems to have picked up a substantial amount of support from respondents who preferred Sanders, among African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latinos. Not among whites, however.

As for that “someone else” who seems to be doing so well? Maybe it’ll be Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate and former New Mexico governor, who is running with former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Depending on who Trump picks as his vice presidential candidate, the Libertarian Party might be the only party with two GOP elected officials on the ticket. And as Aaron Blake points out in the Washington Post, Trump and Johnson are in a dead heat in the latest Pew poll.

The net favorable numbers for Clinton and Trump are also stark.

  African-American Asian-American Latino/a Non-Hispanic White
Clinton 38% 18% 6% -41%
Trump -78% -71% -74% -42%
SOURCE: GenForward

It’s not like a -42 percent net favorability among 18-30-year old whites is good for Trump, but he’s actually neck and neck with Clinton. (High unfavorable ratings for both candidates have been an ongoing story in the campaign, but unfavorable ratings for both Republican and Democratic candidates have been on the rise in recent elections.)

Young whites are also more likely to extend the pox-on-both-their-houses mentality to disapproval of the country as a whole, when asked how things are going with America.

  African-American Asian-American Latino/a Non-Hispanic White
Greater than it’s ever been 8% 6% 7% 2%
Equally great as it has been in the past 16% 21% 17% 11%
Falling behind 43% 52% 47% 56%
Failing 23% 14% 20% 28%
SOURCE: GenForward

This reminds me in turn of recent results from an Illinois-specific poll taken recently, in which African-Americans and Latinos were evenly divided on the direction of the country, but whites heavily leaned towards a narrative of decline.

The pattern keeps for approval of Barack Obama.

  African-American Asian-American Latino/a Non-Hispanic White
Approve strongly 63% 39% 39% 20%
Approve somewhat 23% 35% 31% 27%
Neither approve nor disapprove 8% 17% 16% 13%
Disapprove somewhat 3% 5% 8% 18%
Disapprove strongly 3% 5% 6% 22%
SOURCE: GenForward

The majority of young white respondents do approve of the job Obama is doing (47 percent, versus 40 percent disapproval), but they’re much more divided than the other groups, and they’re the only one to disapprove in large numbers.

Like so much other polling, the GenForward results reflect a divided country; the Wall Street Journal’s latest numbers from battleground states show a divide among whites between Clinton and Trump, while they found literally zero support for Trump among black voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio. But it’s whites that have the deepest divisions among themselves—except, perhaps unsurprisingly in that light, over the direction of the country as a whole.

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