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Clinton And Trump Poll Poorly With Voters Under 35, Research Shows

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's hear the way the presidential candidates try to attract the youth vote. We're joined this morning by two pollsters. Republican Kristen Soltis Anderson, good morning.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Thanks for coming by. And also Democrat Margie Omero is in our studios. Good morning to you.

MARGIE OMERO: Good morning.

INSKEEP: They have a podcast, by the way. It's called "The Pollsters." What do you know? Let's listen to what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and some other candidates have been saying. Hillary Clinton was at Temple University talking with students yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: There's no doubt in my mind that young people have more at stake in this election than any other age group. And when you turn out and vote this fall, we will be sending a message much larger than even the outcome.

INSKEEP: Donald Trump relies on older voters for the most part, but has made pitches to the younger generation, too.

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DONALD TRUMP: Our whole country loses when young people of limitless potential are denied the opportunity to contribute their talents because we failed to provide them the opportunities that they deserve.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Let our children be dreamers, too.

INSKEEP: Margie Omero, I'll let you start. Younger voters seem like a natural voter group for Hillary Clinton. She's the Democrat. It's a more diverse generation. But she has to win them really big. How's she doing?

OMERO: Well, different polls show different results. There have been some polls that have shown her in the 50s with this group. And it's a group that Obama has won with 60 - you know, 60 to 67 percent of the vote in his election. So...

INSKEEP: Oh, so getting 50-some percent is good, but maybe not good enough?

OMERO: Well, there are other polls that show a different result. And I think one thing to keep in mind is, are you looking at a poll just of millennials? Are you looking at a poll that's a subgroup from a larger poll so you have only, you know, a hundred respondents or our margin of error of around plus or minus 10? That makes a difference. Are you looking at a two-way vote? Are you looking at a four-way vote? All these things play a role in how we should be looking at the polls at this stage.

ANDERSON: And the four-way vote matters a lot when it comes to younger voters because we're seeing huge percentages of them saying that they would choose Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, one of these third-party candidates, instead of choosing between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

INSKEEP: You know, it's interesting you mention that. I was reading an article - an old article from 2013 the other day. Ron Fournier, the longtime political journalist, was the author. And this is before the rise of Donald Trump. He goes out. He interviews dozens of millennial voters, and he concludes that, by and large, many of them don't see that they have any stake in the system, don't think the system works for them, perfectly happy to blow it up. It sounds like a group of people that might be attracted to some other alternative, whether it's Donald Trump or a third-party candidate.

ANDERSON: The question is, will they be attracted to a third-party candidate, or will they simply stay home? And so this is a really big question if you're the Clinton campaign because not only do you need to hold younger voters by the same sorts of margins that Barack Obama did in his past two elections, but you also need them to be a large portion of the electorate.

For a lot of young voters, not only do they want to blow up the system, they're not sure that they feel like participating in it at all. They don't want to give their vote to a candidate who's a part of the traditional political system. And so the idea of turning out to vote is just something that's not appealing to an awful lot of people in this generation right now.

INSKEEP: Margie Omero, when you hear Hillary Clinton talking, do you hear messages that seem likely to inspire young people to come out and vote?

OMERO: She is not just trying to reach young people in her messages, she's also trying to reach younger people out in paid communication and in outreach. You see her campaign on blogs like Humans of New York or Refinery 29 or, you know, she did a cameo on "Broad City" a few months ago. She has Bernie Sanders out on the trail and in public talking about...

INSKEEP: What is "Broad City," by the way? That's...

OMERO: It's a show that - it's a show of two young millennial women that has wide appeal among younger folks. So, you know, not aimed at me, but apparently hysterically funny. So she's done a really good job of trying to use the pop culture to try to reach young people where they are. And this sense that, you know, the system has failed us and I don't know if we want to vote, that's not new. That's not something that's unique to voters this election cycle. That's something young people feel traditionally. It takes them a while to feel like they're part of the process.

INSKEEP: Kristen?

ANDERSON: Hillary Clinton, I think, has been attempting to reach younger voters. And sometimes these attempts have been a little bit, I think, ham-fisted. There was one attempt of tweet at us your feelings about student loan debt using three emojis - things that are perhaps trying a little too hard. I think when it comes to policy, there are certain issues, like student loan debt, where Hillary Clinton has put forward a plan, but it's an expensive plan. It's expected it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

This is the sort of thing that, while younger voters may be interested in new ways of paying for college, they also know that the national debt is something they will have to deal with. So the policy mix of things that young voters support or oppose doesn't, I don't think, neatly fit into one party or the other.

It means that either candidate, I think, could try to win this generation if they tried. But Donald Trump has certainly struggled to really take strong stands on positions in line with where this generation is.

INSKEEP: He's deployed his his kids - much noticed photo on social media where his three kids - it looks like an album cover. They're looking right at the camera. Is that working at all?

ANDERSON: I am not confident that it is. Initially, it seemed as though Ivanka Trump could be a very strong advocate for her father - gave an impressive speech at the Republican convention for sure. But simply the act of being young is not necessarily enough to attract younger voters. Take Bernie Sanders as the excellent counter-example to that. He doesn't exactly exude young and hip and yet is very popular among younger voters.

INSKEEP: Listen quickly to the third-party candidates - the major third-party candidates. First, here's part of an ad for Libertarian Gary Johnson.

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GARY JOHNSON: To America's millennials, I say this - by not standing up and voting two-party corruption out of office years ago, people my age have made a real mess of things for people your age.

INSKEEP: That's Gary Johnson. Here's Jill Stein of the Green Party in her acceptance speech at the party convention, calling for an end to student debt.

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JILL STEIN: It has always been the younger generation that leads us forward. We need to liberate the younger generation for all of our sake, not just for their sake. It's for all of us.

INSKEEP: Could third-party candidates, even if they don't win, swing this election?

OMERO: Well, I don't - I don't think Jill Stein's really catching fire. And I think Gary Johnson maybe had a space, had an opening. I think, at this stage, he's not going to be in the debates, it looks like. He had quite a serious gaffe when he said what is Aleppo...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

OMERO: ...In the news. That was very well publicized. It's just a sign that he's not quite seasoned enough. And I think a lot of young people are going to realize that.

INSKEEP: Kristen, you get the last word.

ANDERSON: Yeah, the act of turning out to vote when you're so frustrated, it's hard to get someone new to enter this process. I think you have a lot of younger voters who - they won't just have to be convinced to support one of the major party candidates. They'll have to be convinced to turn out at all. And I think it's an open question at what levels they do so.

INSKEEP: Kristen Soltis Anderson, who, by the way, is the author of a book called "The Selfie Vote," thanks for coming by.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And Margie Omero, thanks to you as well.

OMERO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Democratic and Republican pollsters whose podcast is called "The Pollsters," and we're pleased to hear from them every now and again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.