The Democratic Party may be losing its overwhelming hold on the nation’s youngest voters – suggesting trouble holding the White House.
Millennial voters, ages 18-29, are not as decidedly Democratic as when Barack Obama was on the presidential ticket, according to a new poll by the Institute on Politics at Harvard University.
Today, they say they’d vote for a Democrat in 2016 by 55-40 percent over a Republican.
That’s down sharply from the 66-32 percent support they gave Obama against Republican John McCain in 2008. It’s also down from the 60-37 percent support they gave Obama in 2012 against Republican Mitt Romney.
Instead, it’s about the same as the 54-45 margin they gave Democrat John Kerry in 2004 over Republican President George W. Bush. Kerry lost the general election.
Young voters are “up for grabs” in 2016, according to John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director.
“There are plenty of opportunities for Republicans to make inroads with the generation,” he said. “If Republicans can hold the Democrat nominee to less than 60 percent of the young vote nationally, their chances are dramatically improved for a Republican Electoral College win, in my opinion.”
Democrats still have lopsided support from young women and young minorities.
Young blacks expect to vote for a Democrat over a Republican by 87-8 percent, the poll found. Young Hispanics lean toward the Democrat by 68-27 percent.
Young women would vote for the Democrat by 59-36 percent; young men would go for the Democrat by 50-44 percent.
White 18- to 29-year-olds are another story. They say today they’d vote for the Republican by 53-41 percent, the poll found.
Young voters trust Democrats, and military – justice system less so
Party preference among 18 to 29 year olds
Hillary Clinton leads Democratic field
Ben Carson narrowly tops Republican candidates
Youth confidence in Justice system evenly split
Majority trust military, support use of ground troops against ISIS
Young Republicans or Republican-leaning voters also are up for grabs in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, with 10 percent for Dr. Ben Carson, 8 percent for Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, 7 percent each for former Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, and 5 percent or less for everyone else.
For the Democratic nomination, 47 percent of young Democratic voters prefer Hillary Clinton. The next closest is non-candidate Elizabeth Warren, supported by 11 percent.
According to the poll, 28 percent of young voters don’t know who they would vote for in the Democratic primary and 36 percent are unsure about the Republicans. Suggesting ambivalence, 40 percent do not identify as Democrat or Republican.
“A majority of these folks came of age after Obama 2008 campaign,” said Della Volpe. “This is a more cynical generation when it comes to traditional institutions and traditional governments.”
Those polled indicated they “care deeply in their community” and are willing to engage politically if they’re “inspired” and think they can “create change,” according to Della Volpe.
Pollsters suggest an outward tactic for potential presidential candidates who are courting a generation that needs to be “empowered.” While 40 percent of young people actively engaged during Obama’s 2008 campaign, only about half that number follow politics.
Other findings in the poll:
– 57 percent support sending U.S. troops to participate in a military campaign against the Islamic State. Also, 35 percent believe the U.S. should take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts, up from 25 percent last year. And 23 percent believe it’s sometimes necessary to take pre-emptive military action against potential enemies, up 7 points in a year.
– Young voters split 49-49 when asked whether the justice system can “fairly judge people without bias for race and ethnicity,” but 80 percent support police use of body cameras as the most effective way to damper racial inequalities within law enforcement.
– 55 percent of young whites have “some” or “a lot” of confidence in the justice system. Only 31 percent of young blacks and 44 percent of young Hispanics feel the same.
– 59 percent of young people do not believe protests will change the system in a meaningful way.
– 36 percent of young women have either been sexually assaulted, know someone who has been sexually assaulted or both. Of the women who said they were assaulted, about one out of 10 said they were on a college campus at the time of the incident. Four out of 10 did not report it to anyone.