Republicans haven’t done well with young voters in a presidential election in a long time. And though we young voters are more independent-minded than our elders, most of us still lean toward the Democratic Party.
A new poll, however, shows that this trend has the potential to change if Republicans end up nominating a candidate like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida). The 43-year-old Rubio is viewed favorably among young voters between the ages of 18-34, according to the new Quinnipiac University poll.
And there are several clear warning signs for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as young voters view her even more skeptically than the general population does.
"This is the kind of survey that shoots adrenalin into a campaign. Marco Rubio gets strong enough numbers and favorability ratings to look like a legit threat to Hillary Clinton," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
That includes hints at making inroads among groups with which Democrats have dominated, including the 18-34 crowd. Here’s a look at some promising signs from the poll for Rubio:
- Rubio is only down 10 percentage points to Clinton overall among the 18-34 crowd, better than any other Republican candidate.
- Rubio is one of the only Republican candidates and likely candidates to have a positive favorability rating among young voters. And he has room to grow — the vast majority of young voters say they haven’t heard enough about him to form a distinct opinion.
- Rubio actually polls better than Clinton among young voters on the question of whether they think the candidate is honest and trustworthy, a question that is a key indicator of support for presidential candidates. Just 35 percent of young voters say that Clinton is honest and trustworthy, while 51 percent say she is not.
- Clinton’s email controversy has clearly affected her standing with all groups, including young voters, and it has contributed to her being viewed as untrustworthy. 48% of young voters say the email controversy will be at least "somewhat important" in how they decide their vote. Almost half of young voters also think a congressional investigation into the controversy is warranted.
Overall, thanks to a post-campaign announcement bump, Rubio gets the highest percentage of support among Republican contenders. He gets 15 percent to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 13 percent. And in a theoretical general-election matchup, Rubio trails Clinton by only 2 points.
But other data points show that Rubio still has a lot of work to do to gain the support of young voters. The counterpoints:
- Clinton is still viewed highly favorably among young voters. Half say they have a positive opinion of her, while 37 percent of 18-34-year-olds say they view her unfavorably. Typically, with a candidate as well-known as Clinton, opinions aren't going to markedly shift.
- On the same note, 44 percent of young voters don't yet have an opinion on Rubio. With the wrong message, those undecideds could turn negative.
- Clinton's tenure as secretary of state is clearly a boon for her image, as 69 percent of young voters say she has strong leadership qualities. Only 36 percent say the same about Rubio.
- Rubio is also not viewed as honest and trustworthy, by a 38-32 margin — though none of the candidates are.
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.