Just about six weeks remain for the United States to elect a new President. Walking around Washington DC, one does not see the frenzy of elections that is seen on news channels – of the vitriolic charges and slinging matches that are political debates.
The DC area is largely liberal – the sheer diversity of people working here ensures that but the current data being put out by American polls show that the Presidential nominees –Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are neck and neck in the race. The country is really split down the middle – states across the country are being called battleground states (Denver, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania).
Hence, in many ways the US Presidential elections of 2016 is a watershed moment for the 200 year old democracy.
Never have both the candidates been disliked by so many of their voters and nor have the candidates themselves faced a voter base that is as much a wild card as the one in 2016.
A Washington-ABC Poll in June 2016 this year showed that both Clinton and Trump had more haters than supporters. The names devised by them for each other seems to have stuck – Crooked Hillary and Dangerous Donald.
And there’s even a question on public forum platform Quora – I hate both Trump and Clinton. What should I do?
Now let’s come to the voters – Millennials, roughly defined as someone born between the 1980s and the 2000, or those who are between the age groups of 18-35 today are now larger in size (75.4 million, according to a Pew Research Center report from April) than the Baby Boomers (74.9 million). But they have an unproven track record when it comes to actually voting.
That’s because the millennials have some of the value carry overs from their parents or their influence networks but they also care about issues that the baby boomers did not have to deal with. Student debt is the biggest example. The front page of an influential weekly magazine proclaims that student debt in the United States is at a staggering $1.3 trillion – every student that graduates from an American university gets out of the classroom with a whopping $30,000 of debt. This is an issue that President Barack Obama was passionate about and did manage to sign some legislation on it.
But Clinton’s follow up effort of asking millennials to talk about it using emojis backfired famously. Those working with young generation like the Atlantic Council’s Daniel Bennett, Associate Director of the Millennium Leadership Programme says, “It is proven that the millennials want integrity and honesty in their presidential candidate. Right now, neither of the two candidates offer that to them or have the image of being that.”
Similarly, Trump has managed to rally voters who are majoritarily white and who have felt the impact of manufacturing jobs shifting to China. But, according to Steven Olikara, President of the Millennial Action Project, a majority of the jobs generated in the U.S. in the last five years have not been in the traditional areas and definitely not manufacturing. The jobs have in fact come from startups like Uber.
So when Trump talks about jobs being outsourced, he is leaving behind a sizeable number of voters who never saw these jobs and who won’t in the future either.
Another topic for concern that the Republican Party has been on a week footing is Climate change and which ranks considerably high on the list of the issues millennial care about according to Jennifer Dahl, Director of Brigade Media – a political networking app.
As the debate leaves out issues that the millennials care about, and if the last elections were any indication, between having to pick among Clinton, Trump or a third party candidate, millennial could decide not to turn out at all.
Here are the numbers for the voter turnout from the last presidential elections – 54% in 2012, 58% in 2008 and 54% in 2004.
But, not turning out to vote is not an option for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Trump who is increasingly lagging behind Clinton in the national polls, is hoping that millennials could be the key to boost his chances. According to this report on decoding the Trump supporter, despite different approaches, some millennials are bending towards the Donald because they see him as not part of an entrenched system that was responsible for the 2008 Recession and who is belligerent but is honest.
Millennials are the largest generation in the electorate and a majority of them identify themselves as unaffiliated – neither Republican nor Democrat. That is even more uncertainty in a mix that is already difficult to pin down. John Zogby founder of the “Zogby Poll” is an American public opinion pollster, shakes his head and admits, “In this election anything can happen and anything has been happening. Nobody can predict anything.”
Keeping these in mind, Clinton after getting Sanders to back her began to include his campaign strategists to connect with millennials – Sanders had got about 1 million more votes than her from the millennial group.
But, the fact is that millennials continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Only about 46% voted in the last presidential election – and this missing vote might mean defeat for either Clinton or Trump.
That is the reason why Trump has featured on TV shows and Clinton is making an effort to be present on social media. The key is to convince the millennials and to get them to vote on November 8.