Young people are planning to turn out the vote in 2016. And they have a clear choice at this point about who they want to be the nation’s next president.
Those are some of the highlights from Fusion's Massive Millennial Poll, which surveyed 1000 people aged 18-34 about everything from politics to dating to race issues. The poll provides a barometer of millennials’ priorities and preferred candidates ahead of the 2016 presidential election. (For the full results and methodology, click here.)
For one thing, they say they’re increasingly engaged ahead of the all-important election — but it’s also clear they’re not very well-informed. And they think government can help them, particularly in an area where they’ve struggled to get ahead — in their jobs.
Young people are ‘ready for Hillary’
Right now, young people want former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the nation’s first female president in 2017.
Clinton is the top choice among young Democrats and handily beats the GOP challenger who currently gets the highest percentage of the youth vote, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, according to the survey. Romney last Friday said he would not run for the third time, putting Republicans in a fresh scramble to find a candidate who can compete with Clinton.
Young Democrats across all demographics pick Clinton to be the party’s next nominee, according to the survey. More than half — 57 percent — of the Democrats surveyed prefer Clinton, compared with 10 percent who choose Vice President Joe Biden and another 10 percent who want Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. At 19 percent, a large chunk are still undecided.
But young Republicans preferred a third presidential run from Romney before he made it official to supporters last week that he wouldn’t run. More young people identified with the Democratic Party, so the Republican sample is decidedly smaller. (Note: Results showing Romney ahead were also based on a smaller sample size than the results with the rest of the Republican field.)
With Romney out of the mix, former Florida Jeb Bush benefitted the most: He could be the frontrunner with Romney out of the way. In a Romney-less field, Bush leads the pack at 16 percent, jumping 4 percentage points from a field that included Romney.
Bush is trailed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (14 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (12 percent), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (8 percent) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (8 percent).
More young people still lean toward Democrats when they’re pressed
According to the survey, 49 percent say they are politically unaffiliated — including a majority (58 percent) of young Latino voters, half of young male voters, and half of the 25-29-aged voters in the sample.
But when the self-identified independents were pressed further, half of those surveyed at least leaned toward identifying with the Democratic Party. Thirty-five percent, meanwhile, leaned more toward the GOP.
And if the election were held today, 48 percent would choose a generic Democratic candidate, compared with 35 percent who would pick the Republican nominee.
Jeb Bush does exceptionally well with young Latino voters
Could Republicans solve their Latino vote problem in 2016? The survey suggests they have a candidate who excites young Latino Republicans far more than the others.
That candidate is Bush, whose wife is Latina and who is generally viewed as more pro-immigration reform than any of the other potential Republican candidates at this point. Bush, along with Romney, did not appear at an Iowa summit last weekend hosted by noted immigration hawk Rep. Steve King.
According to the survey, 19 percent of Latino Republicans surveyed said they’d vote for Bush in the GOP primary. That was 8 percentage points higher than the next-closest candidates — Christie and Paul. Christie, however, blew out the rest of the field among young, African-American Republicans. He got 24 percent of the vote there, 17 points ahead of the next closest challengers — Bush and Paul.
Some other areas where Bush is relatively strong: in the 18- to 24-year-old crowd (12 percent), with self-identified “conservative” young Republicans (15 percent), and with young Republicans who have at least some college education (12 percent). He leads the crowded Republican field in each of those categories.
One question revealed how alarmingly uninformed young people are about politics
Are you between the ages of 18-34? Can you name one — just one — of your home state’s senators?
Congrats! You did better than more than three-fourths of people your age. That’s right — 77 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds in the new survey could not name even one US senator in their home state.
The finding provides fodder for the suggestion that millennials are relatively uninformed political citizens. But Fusion’s survey also revealed that more than nine in 10 of the 18- to 34-year-olds plan to vote in the 2016 presidential election, so there’s some inclination they want to learn more. [[More on this breakdown below.]]
Some interesting findings in the demographic breakdowns: more men (25 percent) than women (20 percent) were able to correctly name at least one of their senators. However, they were also more likely to guess and take a 50-50 shot at getting it right — women were more likely than men to say they “don’t know” rather than give an incorrect response.
Meanwhile, certain demographic groups within the survey earned a particularly low grade. Just 18 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, 16 percent of Latinos, and 10 percent of African-Americans could correctly identify one of their senators. However, whites were significantly more likely to guess than to say they didn’t know.
Here’s the one issue millennials most want the next president to tackle
A majority of millennials want their next president to take decisive action to improve their economic situations. A plurality — 19 percent — of respondents in the survey said they want the next president to address the economy and jobs.
Coming in next on the list of important issues is health care (10 percent), education (7 percent), budgets and deficits (6 percent), and immigration and border control (4 percent).
The economy and jobs were the No. 1 issue across every demographic measured in the poll, from sex, age, race, ideology, and education level. All but one demographic — young men — ended up with health care as the No. 2 issue.
The economy, while picking up steam as a whole in recent months, continues to pose challenges, especially for millennials. The unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds remains around 20 percent, and a Pew Research Center paper published last year found that millennials are driving a record increase in multi-generational home living.
Changing of the guard? Young people think government is helpful
Where millennials differ from the rest of the American population, however, is in their view that, overall, government is generally good. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said government is “helpful,” compared with just 18 percent who called it “harmful.” That suggests millennials want the next president to be more active in tackling their prioritized issues.
A 2014 Washington Post poll found that a plurality of registered voters viewed the government as more harmful than helpful. The difference was especially distinct in those who felt strongly about their position — 27 percent strongly felt the government was harmful, compared with 11 percent who strongly felt it was helpful.
Young people are actually excited to vote in 2016! Will it last?
More than three-quarters millennials say they are at least “very likely” to vote in the 2016 presidential election, a level of enthusiasm that has the potential to dwarf previous turnouts from young people in past elections.
In all, 77 percent 18 to 34-year-olds are “absolutely certain” or “very likely” to vote in 2016, according to the survey. Another 14 percent said they will “possibly” vote, bringing the total up to 91 percent. Just 8 percent say they are not likely to vote, while 1 percent is undecided.
Such an increase could represent a boon for whichever presidential candidate takes advantage. Multiple studies have shown that young voters propelled Obama to his two electoral victories, especially in 2012.
That year, according to the Pew Research Center, voters between the ages of 18-34 made up about 19 percent of the electorate, an increase from 18 percent in 2008.
But only about half of those eligible to vote in the age group went to the polls, according to a 2012 analysis from Center for Research and Information on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. That same analysis found that Obama won at least 61 percent of the youth vote in four key swing states — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The analysis concluded that if Romney had split the youth vote in those states, he could have won each of them.
The general enthusiasm spreads across demographics. Overall, 88 percent of men aged 18-34 are likely to vote. Even more women — 95 percent — are planning on heading to the voting booth in 2016.
Ninety-three percent of young white people and African-Americans say they are likely to vote, while 88 percent of young Latinos plan to turn out. And 89 percent of high-school graduates, 90 percent of attendees of at least some college, and 94 percent of college graduates are likely to vote.
Why are some young people planning on sitting out? What would make them change their minds?
They have a few reasons, but the most popular they gave is that they “don’t care about voting” — 16 percent of the young people who said they are unlikely to vote chose that option. Twelve percent of that group said they are “too busy,” 9 percent said “nothing ever changes” or “my vote doesn’t count,” and 8 percent said they “don’t trust the system,” rounding out the top-five reasons.
What could change that? Millennials say they’d be more likely to vote if they could do so online (49 percent) or via a cell phone (38 percent). Another 26 percent said a more racially diverse palate of candidates would motivate them to vote, while 24 percent said more young candidates on the menu would be an encouraging factor.
African-Americans, in particular, said they’d be much more likely to vote if there were racially diverse candidates (24 percent, vs. 13 percent across the board), and if they could vote online (44 percent, vs. 32 percent across the board).
Fusion's Massive Millennial Poll surveyed 1,000 people between the ages of 18 to 34, with a general population sample and an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points. The interviews were conducted via telephone from Jan. 6 to Jan. 11. For more on our methodology and poll results, click here.
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.