One of the oft-repeated narratives of the 2016 presidential primary season has been that Donald Trump can’t win the general election because he gets crushed by Hillary Clinton with Millennials. But, results from the key battleground state of Pennsylvania suggest that, perhaps, Trump may have made inroads with the smartphone generation.
More on that in a moment.
The doomsday scenarios painted by analysts on the left and the right regarding Trump’s trouble with Millennials are backed up by solid polling data that has stayed consistent over several months.
In March, Townhall’s Guy Benson broke down polling that spelled serious trouble for the New York billionaire:
As a point of reference, Mitt Romney won 37 percent of the youth vote in 2012, and actually won white Millennials by seven points. Trump has attracted the support of less than one-in-five young voters, is losing white Millennials by 19 points, and causes roughly a quarter of young Republicans to bolt the party. This bloc will be voting in elections for decades to come; nominating Trump could poison the well and do lasting damage to the GOP brand in the eyes of nearly an entire generation.
As recently as this Tuesday, Sophia Tesfaye at Salon echoed the refrain showing how Hillary does well with the voting bloc only when Trump is the presumed GOP nominee:
While young voters have overwhelmingly backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, according to a poll released Monday by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, although the Vermont Independent remains the only presidential candidate with favorable ratings, even Hillary Clinton would crush Trump in November amongst 18- to 29-year-old voters. And while the same poll conducted a year ago with generic Republican and Democratic candidates found so-called millennial voters preferred a generic Democrat to a Republican by a 55 to 40 percent margin, when Clinton and Trump were named as the candidates in this year’s poll, that Democratic lead extended to a whopping 36 points.
And Ron Meyer at Red Alert Politics summed up Trump’s challenges with the Starbucks-swigging hipsters by pointing out that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) performs much better than Trump against Hillary, according to a Fox News poll:
Cruz’s lead among young voters is fueling his general election chances in November. In this poll, Cruz defeats Clinton 47 percent to 44 percent in the general election; Trump loses 49 percent to 38 percent.
In 2008 and 2012, President Obama won younger voters by huge margins; he defeated Governor Mitt Romney 67 percent to 30 percent among voters 18-to-29 years old. If Cruz can neutralize or reverse this trend, it would be a huge feat for the Republican Party’s future.
In most of the primary and caucus results over the past several months, the votes reflected these poll results. Even when Trump did very well with Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, he’s usually tanked with Millennials.
Game, set and match, right? Turn out the lights. Trump is doomed. Get ready for four years of this.
Maybe. Or, maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t do what every political pundit and “expert” has done since they wrote-off his candidacy the day Trump announced.
Something happened in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Daniel White at Time gives a summary of the results for both states, but for our purposes, let’s just focus on Pennsylvania because the Keystone State could actually be a decisive battleground in the general election and even if Trump did well in Maryland (which he did) it probably won’t make a difference. Clinton’s basically a lock in the Old Line State.
According to data compiled by The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) 157,000 Millennials in Pennsylvania voted in the Republican primary this past Tuesday. This compares to 198,000 who cast ballots as Democrats.
Trump ended up winning 52% of the Millennial vote which amounts to roughly 81,640 votes. Meanwhile, Clinton got a paltry 17% of Millennials which works out to 33,660 votes.
It’s only one state (although, a pretty important state) but it represents the best showing Trump has had in the 18-29 year-old demographic since the primaries began. That coupled with his narrow victory with the same age group over Cruz in Maryland is definitely an encouraging sign for Team Trump.
Does it reverse the narrative? No. Is it proof that Trump has found the formula to reverse his fortunes with younger voters? Of course not. But, his improved performance coupled with Clinton’s consistently dismal showing with the same age group may allow for more than a glimmer of hope as Trump moves toward the convention and will have to make the case that his candidacy is not doomed from the start, as many analysts would have the American people believe.