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Poll Shows Young Voters Likely to Turn on Democrats in 2016

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

When the confetti cleared on Election Night in 2012, Barack Obama’s victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney looked ugly; there’s nothing reassuring about a 332–206 electoral vote smack down.


Although the electoral vote totals made it appear as though it was a runaway Obama victory, the popular vote totals were actually much closer than the final electoral college tally. Romney lost by about 3.5 million votes, which is especially tough in a nation of over 300 million people.

Now that numerous candidates have declared for the 2016 race, pollsters have been busy trying to get an early read on where the nation stands. One interesting poll recently released by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP)shows that although a majority of young voters still favor a Democrat (DNC) candidate for the presidency, the gap has closed significantly compared to the previous two presidential elections.

About 55 percent of respondents aged 18–29 indicated in the IOP’s poll that they would like to see the Democrat win. Exit polling data reveal 66 percent of the same demographic preferred Obama over McCain in 2008 and 60 percent favored Obama over Romney in 2012.

Perhaps even more interestingly, 18–24 year olds in the poll had a slightly less-favorable view of another Democrat president taking office in 2017 than 25–29 year olds did, which may partially be attributed to the poor economy for college graduates and high levels of student debt.


While it’s still (obviously) too early to be thinking about presidential polling, the IOP survey does show the allegiance of young people to the DNC has some serious cracks in it. The mood of many of those same individuals who were very enthusiastic about the Democrat Party just a few elections ago has definitely soured, and there’s no reason to expect things to improve before 2016.

Perhaps more importantly, polls like this one may be a clear sign Hillary Clinton—or maybe even Bernie Sanders (I can dream, can’t I?)—isn’t going to be able to tap into the young, restless hope-filled-dreamer mantra so effectively utilized by the Obama campaign team.

Clinton, even with all of her experience and the high level of respect she’s sure to get from younger voters, is not the kind of candidate young people are going to go rushing to the polls to support. She’s more John Kerry than she is Barack Obama, and I think that’s a much bigger problem than a lot of political pundits today are willing to admit.

If I lost my mind, my convictions, and my commonsense and joined the 2016 Clinton campaign team, my greatest concern would be the lack of enthusiasm for Hillary amongst young people. While there’s probably no reason to believe any Republican could actually win the 18–29 demographic in 2016, it should be noted that in 2004, the last time a Republican presidential candidate won, Democrat challenger John Kerry (D-MA) captured 54 percent of 18–29 year olds, which is exactly what the IOP poll is predicting would happen if the election were tomorrow.


It may be tempting to buy into the belief that all young people are Democrat drones, but all the signs are pointing in the direction of a shift against the DNC similar to those witnessed prior to the 2000 and 2004 elections.

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