Hillary Clinton's "Millennial Problem" Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Some recent news coverage has focused on Hillary Clinton's ho-hum poll numbers with millennials. Take Politico's "Millennials Go Mild For Hillary Clinton," for example. Still, things may not be as bad as it sounds for the Democratic presidential nominee. Sure, she hasn't garnered the kind of grassroots activism that Bernie Sanders saw in the primaries, but the numbers aren't there to write her off just yet. Hillary Clinton's millennial voter reach is far from doomed.

What is clear is that in recent polls, third-party candidates seem to be doing better among this age group than in 2012. But is that really a surprise? Third-party candidates are doing better in general this year; not just among young people. In 2012, no third-party candidate received more than 1 percent of the vote. Polls right now point to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson receiving nearly 9 percent, and the Green Party's Jill Stein about 3 percent.

For the 18-to-34-year-old vote, those numbers are higher. The latest poll to break down the youth vote in detail was conducted between Aug. 24 and Aug. 30 by the Global Strategy Group, and just in 11 battleground states, not nationwide, so comparisons won't be perfect. But look at the third-party support: Stein has about 8 percent, and Johnson has 13 percent. It's higher, but nothing huge. Then, between Clinton and Donald Trump, the difference is pretty striking: 48 percent to 23 percent, respectively. That's a difference of 25 percentage points in Clinton's favor, meaning she's far from doomed on securing the millennial vote.

Many political writers have pointed to the difference between this election and 2012. The comparison to President Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's exit poll numbers isn't quite fair. Obama won with a split of 37 percentage points, taking home 67 percent of the vote compared to Romney's 30 percent. But part of what seems to be Obama's advantage is an age difference in the 2012 exit polls. These are voters under 30, not up to 34. So perhaps Clinton does better with voters under 30 compared to Trump, but it's not completely certain, because the current general election polls show data for those 18-34.

Plus, the extent of Clinton's lead is proportionally greater once you take out the third-party votes, and it's much closer to Obama's lead (which, again, was even younger than what we have polling info for). And if that's not convinced you enough, consider this: Some 71 percent of millennials would be ashamed of the United States if Trump were to become president, according to the Global Strategy Group poll. So if it looks like he might win the electoral college, more are likely to wind up voting for Clinton.

That could be part of what we're seeing in the latest results in Ohio. There, Clinton still leads by 32 percentage points, according to a CBS/YouGov poll there last week (Obama actually led in the state by just 28 percentage points). Meanwhile, Trump has been polling well in Ohio. FiveThirtyEight predicts he would win the state if the race were held today, and the most recent poll puts him ahead by 1 percentage point.

So to me, that would point to millennials sticking with her when they know Trump could win (and obviously, a Trump win in Ohio could give him the White House). It would be great to have that kind of lead nationwide among millennials, but the key, like always, is in battleground states. It's one thing to vote Stein in California and quite another in Ohio or Florida.

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This demographic was the focal point of a speech last Monday at Temple University in Philadelphia. Clinton went to the school to make a case for why younger voters should consider her come November. She acknowledges she has some work to do: "Even if you’re totally opposed to Donald Trump, you may still have some questions about me. I get that. And I want to do my best to answer those questions."

But she also told them that not voting will "play into" Trump's hand. And not only that. "I need you,” Clinton told the crowd. “I need you as partners, not just for winning this election, but for driving real change." Now the key is to get the message across to millennials across the country that they need her too, to keep Trump out of the White House and continue the progressive policies of the Obama administration.