The 2016 U.S. presidential race has seen Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declare their candidacies recently.
However, the one that seems to be exciting the youth vote the most is Clinton, the only Democratic candidate so far.
The youth vote was critical to President Barack Obama’s successes in 2008 and 2012. The same could be true for Clinton.
According to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, she carries the youth vote over all the official and prospective Republican candidates, leading Paul by 11 percent, Rubio by 12 percent, and prospective candidate Jeb Bush by 14 percent.
This recent trend of support for Democrats among youths “probably gives Clinton an early advantage,” said Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, DC.
However, the Republican candidates are “a blank slate. They’re just beginning to define themselves, and they’ll continue to do so as the primaries proceed,” Bowman added.
“We just don’t know yet whether one of them will prove more attractive to younger voters than Clinton.”
Wake Forest University senior Thomas Sloan, 22, said even though he is not a strong supporter of Clinton, he plans to vote for her because he believes “in political participation, and she’s probably going to be a better candidate than whoever the Republicans choose.”
Henri Lirani, 22, a graphic designer for a major internet company in San Francisco, said he may not be convinced by Clinton yet, but “I think she’ll likely still be more attractive than her [future] Republican opponent.”
Her presidential run follows her tenure as Obama’s secretary of state. It was riddled with scandals, such as the deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, and criticisms over her use of her personal email instead of the secure official government email.
However, Bowman said: “There’s little indication that [the youth] were paying close attention to her tenure as secretary of state.”
According to the Quinnipiac poll, only 11 percent of youths said they had not heard enough about Clinton to have an informed position, compared with 35-60 percent for the Republican candidates.
She “runs well against all the [Republican] candidates,” but despite “virtual unanimous name recognition” she “hasn’t hit the 50-percent mark in recent polls,” said Bowman.
“I think this suggests some weakness.”
Professor Elizabeth Sherman, who teaches political science at the American University, said youths are “least likely to vote, and although they went strongly for Obama in 2008, their support diminished in 2012.” Clinton “will have to work for it.”
She “can energize young voters with powerful messages that target the enormous differences between the parties on reproductive choice, minimum wage, expanding federal grants for higher education, and diplomacy rather than war,” said Sherman.
“Her greatest asset among the young will be Obama, who more than anyone can effectively speak to their hopes and dreams.”
Bowman said while Clinton “has an initial advantage because young people are more Democratic than Republican, we can’t know if it’ll hold up.”