Embattled Clinton steps up drive to court young Americans

2016-09-21 20:37
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

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Washington - Hillary Clinton is revving up her drive to woo young people, a key demographic that is resisting her as she battles Donald Trump tooth and nail for the White House.

The polling numbers are alarming for the Democrat as she seeks to become the first female president of America.

As recently as August, among millennials aged 18-34 Clinton held a 24-point lead over the Republican Trump in a four-way race including two alternative candidates. But in September this margin had dwindled to five points, according to a Quinnipiac poll.

The breakdown now looks like this: Clinton at 31%, Trump at 26%, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson up from 16% in August to 29% in September, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 15%, according to this poll.

A total of 62% of those questioned said they were willing to vote for a candidate other than Clinton or Trump.

Some 90% said they consider Clinton to be intelligent and 77% find her experienced. But 77% said they do not think she is honest, a score that is worse than Trump's at 68%, according to the Quinnipiac survey.

A CBS/New York Times poll gave Clinton 48% support among millennials, compared to 29% for Trump. But 21% said they will either not vote or cast their ballot for someone other than Clinton or Trump.

Without the support of young Americans, Clinton could lose in the battleground states of North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, experts say.

Millennials were a huge part of the coalition that brought Barack Obama to power in 2008 and to a lesser extent in 2012 when he won re-election, said Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College outside New York City.

"The millennials are the biggest generation in American history, surpassing now the baby boomers," said Zaino, adding that the group contains 69 million potential voters and Clinton needs their support.

"She has really got to work hard to call them back into the fold and then get them out to vote in November," Zaino said.

Polls show young people feel Clinton does not put priority on issues that affect them, and that she is an establishment politician who will not bring about change.

What is more, some millennials were born while Bill Clinton was president, from 1993 to 2001, and have only vague familiarity with that period. And what they do know centres mostly on scandals of the Clinton era, Zaino said.

'Huge generational gap'

And when young people learn, for example, that Clinton used to be against same-sex marriage, "they cannot fathom it".

"There is a huge generational gap," said Zaino.

Clinton's former rival Bernie Sanders, who electrified young Americans with his pledge to fight income inequality and Wall Street excess and provide free university education, may be older but he spoke to young people in a way that Clinton cannot, Zaino said.

In a bid to remedy all this, the Clinton campaign announced onMonday that she would intensify her outreach to young people through round table talks, live discussions on Facebook, events designed to get them to register to vote and sending heavyweight substitutes out on the campaign trail to court them.

Obama, his wife Michelle, Sanders, liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren and Clinton's running mate Tim Kaine all campaigned last week to try win over young people.

In a speech on Monday at Temple University in Philadelphia, Clinton spoke about what she called the values that drive her and her early days as a young lawyer working to help poor children.

She also discussed other issues that are important to young people: climate change, sexual violence on US university campuses, and the problem of students having to take out huge loans to pay for college.

She appealed to students to register to vote and then get out and cast their ballots on November 8.

"I need you," Clinton said. "This is going to be close."

The crowd applauded politely.

Clinton also published an open letter on Mic, a website that targets millennials, addressing what she has learned from this group of Americans.

"Your generation is the most open, diverse and entrepreneurial generation in our country's history," Clinton wrote.

She vowed to work with young people to lift what she described as barriers blocking them from realising their full potential.

"If I'm fortunate enough to be elected, you will always have a champion in the White House," Clinton wrote.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  hillary clinton  |  barack obama  |  us  |  us elections 2016

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