Millennial voters may cost Hillary Clinton the election

But the message from all of these polls is that Clinton’s problems with younger voters are rooted not in policy but in personal assessments. Big majorities of Millennials, the polls show, view her as untrustworthy, calculating, and unprincipled. Which is another way of saying they have accepted the portrait that Bernie Sanders painted of her during their long primary struggle. In the GWU Battleground Poll, 66 percent of Millennials said she says what is politically convenient, while only 22 percent said she says what she believes. In the Quinnipiac survey, 77 percent said she was not honest and trustworthy. “It’s hard for them after hearing that for a year [from Sanders] to just turn on a dime,” Baumann says.

Those are big headwinds, and privately more top Democratic strategists are growing concerned that she will not entirely resolve them before November. (Even Sanders’s first fall foray onto the trail for Clinton reflected that resistance. His two campus appearances in Ohio last weekend drew small crowds that might not have filled the overflow room during his primary campaign.) Baumann believes that given the doubts many Millennials harbor about Clinton, it’s highly unlikely in a four-way race that she will ever equal Obama’s 60 percent showing from 2012 (much less his 67 percent from 2008). Reaching 55 percent, he says, is probably the most she can achieve. But the difference between that and her current level of Millenial support, in the mid-40s, he adds, might be the difference between success and failure in some of the most closely contested states.

“I don’t think between now and the election, Millennials are going to come around and love Hillary Clinton,” Baumann said. “But I think she can make gains that can be enough to turn some of the important states toward her.”