Hillary Clinton, Democratic party’s nominee for U.S. president and Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate (Photographer: Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonquist/Bloomberg)

Clinton Moves to Fix Millennial Problem With Assist From Sanders

(Bloomberg) -- Hillary Clinton has a millennial voter problem, and she's working to address it with help from progressive icons Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are slated to campaign for her this weekend in Ohio.

The Democratic nominee is under-performing with younger voters who are generally a stronghold for her party, because of a huge trust deficit. Although surveys indicate they strongly prefer her to Republican Donald Trump, substantial numbers say they'll vote for a third-party candidate or stay home on Election Day.

"These are obstacles. These are issues," said Tad Devine, a veteran Democratic strategist who advised Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, which won over young voters in large numbers. He suggested Clinton can enlist local leaders trusted by young people to "make the case that their vote is of great importance, real consequence" because failing to vote for her could lead to a Trump victory.

A Gallup tracking poll last week found Clinton's approval rating among voters age 18 to 29 was a dismal 33 percent, the lowest of any age group.

Clinton is winning only 48 percent of likely voters under 30, according to a New York Times/CBS News national poll released Thursday. By contrast, President Barack Obama won 60 percent of this bloc in 2012 and 66 percent in 2008.

The survey found that 26 percent of likely voters under 30 plan to vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, while 10 percent support the Green Party's Jill Stein.

The Quinnipiac poll found that in a two-way contest, Clinton tops Trump by 55 to 34 percent with voters aged 18 to 34. But when third party candidates are included, her support shrinks to 31 percent, barely ahead of Johnson's 29 percent, with Trump at 26 percent and Stein at 15 percent.

'Turned Off by Party Politics'

Devine said today's young voters are "turned off by party politics" and are less inclined than unusual to support a major party candidate but predicted they'll eventually move in her direction when they realize that "Hillary is the only game in town."

The strategist, who worked on Al Gore's 2000 campaign, recalled that "an awful lot" of young voters in states like Washington, Oregon and Wisconsin told pollsters they supported independent candidate Ralph Nader. "Many of them, particularly in places we went out and made an aggressive case not to do that, left Nader in the final days of the campaign."

"That support probably isn't going to come until the end. Nader's vote dropped by 40 to 80 percent in his strongholds in the final days," Devine said.  

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, is slated to campaign for Clinton Saturday in Ohio in the Canton, Kent and Akron areas. In an advisory, her campaign said Sanders will "emphasize Clinton's plans to support millennials," touting her plans to make public college free for most, lift the minimum wage and tackle climate change.

While many favor the more liberal policies of Sanders, a major Clinton weakness is a perception that she's dishonest. In the new Quinnipiac poll, a jarring 77 percent of likely voters aged 18 to 34 said Clinton is not honest, while 21 percent said she is. Even Trump performed marginally better in the category. 

"It's a real challenge for Secretary Clinton and her campaign," said Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who has delved into millennial voting tendencies. "There's a character issue. There's a trust issue. She needs to address that."

A new Economist/YouGov poll Thursday found that just 52 percent of Sanders voters plan to vote for Clinton; 15 percent said Trump, 13 percent said Stein and 9 percent said Johnson.

Senator Elizabeth Warren will also campaign for Clinton in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, this weekend, to "lay out the stakes of November's election for millennial voters."

Clinton to Speak to Millennials

On Monday, Clinton will give a speech in Philadelphia "laying out the stakes of November's election for millennial voters," her campaign announced on Thursday afternoon.

"With 55 days until the election, one thing is certain: the stakes are too high for any voter to stay home. As Secretary Clinton has said, the campaign is committed to earning every vote," Christopher Huntley, Clinton's director of millennial media, said in an e-mail. "During the final phase of the election, our campaign will deploy high profile surrogates to uplift Secretary Clinton's message to the generation and mobilize millennial voters to get to the polls."

Appearing Thursday on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Clinton sympathized with the struggles of young people.

"I really have a lot of sympathy, in a way, because think of what this millennial generation has faced," she said on the radio broadcast. "They entered the workforce during one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history. So what I’m focusing on are more good-paying jobs."

Baumann said it won't be enough to simply make the case against Trump, because "millennials already despise Trump," viewing him as racist and disrespectful of women. Instead, he said, she needs a positive contrast message on economic and tax fairness, college affordabililty and climate change, which he ranked as millennials' top issues.

"She needs to be making the case of why she's good and why she's better than Trump. Otherwise there's a real danger that some of these voters who don't like her are going to go to Johnson and Stein."

To contact the author of this story: Sahil Kapur in Washington at skapur39@bloomberg.net.