Do the number of millennials in anti-Trump rallies reflect this young-ish group’s aversion to the sitting US president? Apparently not. Going by post-election surveys, even if 55 percent of voters aged 18-29 voted for Clinton and 37 percent went for Trump, this turnout for Clinton is lower than Obama’s 60 percent in the 2012 elections.
But in a Harvard survey of 2,654 millennials done in March 2017 which showed that three-fourths of them knew they were registered to vote, one-third were not interested or passionate enough about the poll outcome to do so. In the same study, 39 percent considered themselves Democrat-affiliated and 22 percent as Republican-affiliated. A sizable 37 percent were independent.
If this non-voting 33 percent component had gone to the polls on that fateful November 8, 2016, the results could have gone the other way.
An interesting find from Circle, Tuft University’s nonpartisan research center focused on young people in the US, revealed the racial divide in the polls. Trump got 48 percent of the white votes from millennials against 43 percent for Clinton. Clinton’s millennial support came mostly from the youth of color (African Americans and Latinos.)
Another discovery worth noting that may have contributed to the Democrats’ loss is the number of millennials that voted for an independent candidate. In 2012, 3 percent voted for a third party candidate. In 2016, that number rose to 8 percent.
But, almost a year into Trump’s presidency, the figures above have become irrelevant, unless for purposes of strategizing for the 2020 elections. Like it or not, Trump will be the president for the next four years, barring death, impeachment or incapacity.
Moving on to the here and now, has President Trump’s popularity with the 18-29-year old citizenry improved? According to GenForward, an August survey out of the University of Chicago showed a substantial 62 percent disapproval rate from adults age 18-34 for the way Trump is doing his job. A May 2017 survey had better results for the president. His disapproval rating was then 58 percent. Worth noting is the white voters’ sentiments. They gave a lower approval rating of 29 percent in August against 34 percent in May.
(Millennials as used in this report are the young Americans with ages from 18-34 as of 2016, since the Harvard and GenForward surveys set their own parameters.)
Still, some of the youth are unyielding. For reasons as yet unfathomable, some millennials like Donald Trump, in spite of, or maybe because of, his policies or profanities. Here are speculations on what draw the young whites, and some non-whites, to Trump.
1. Trump says it like it is, whether it’s wrong or right, or just downright silly. He is outspoken and candid, and millennials who like him see it as a measure of authenticity. He is a refreshing change from the traditional politicians who read from a readymade speech written by their ghostwriters. This forthrightness may not be directly proportional to his capability on the job, but they deem it as a more important quality.
2. Trump has promised to bring jobs back to the United States. Globalization and outsourcing are some factors that have raised the unemployment rate of millennials to almost 13 percent, as reported in the Millennial Jobs Report for February 2016. This figure includes the 1.8 million who have given up looking for a job because of the lack of openings. His pro-business policies of lowering the corporate tax rate to 15%, imposing a 20% border adjustment tax for imported goods, a corresponding write-off for exports, and meeting with CEOs to entice them to create more well-paying jobs has endeared him to millennials.
3. Corollary to his jobs creation program, Trump intends to deport 11 million illegal immigrants who are taking work away from Americans and are enjoying government benefits through their legal spouse or children. State and local governments bear the financial burden of supporting them by allowing them entry to public schools and availing of school meals and emergency medical services.
Millennial Americans, while known for being social justice advocates, may privately resent the perceived excessive benefits illegal immigrants are getting from the US government.
4. Millennials, viewed as progressive and tolerant, are actually more conservative than the previous generations before them at the same age. This was the finding of a study by psychologist Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University.
For example, quite a few researches have shown a shift in attitude towards abortion, with 53 percent of millennials saying that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Trump’s law cutting off federal funding to abortion vendor Planned Parenthood resonates well with the conservative youth.
5. For the most part, millennials rely on the internet for information and are influenced by what they read. They have turnedd anti-establishment and do not trust institutions and governments as much as the previous generations. Trump is viewed as an outsider, not as entrenched in politics as traditional legislators, and is therefore more genuine, making him the more attractive choice.
6. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign makes this young group feel patriotic, even as studies show they are not, as compared to the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. Millennials prefer to be called global citizens and reject the notion that the United States is the greatest country on earth. Exposure to the world through technology has revealed that America’s superpower status is not unchangeable. Yet a show of patriotism is expected. Wearing shirts and caps, and buying buttons and mugs with the MAGA slogan can mitigate the millennials’ guilt feelings for not being patriotic enough, like serving in the military. A vote for Trump is reflected patriotism for this group.
Come 2020, if or when Trump runs for re-election, the results will validate or disprove the impression that some millennials like Donald Trump enough to make him win.