What (young) women want: Can Hillary win them over in 2016?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reaches for a smartphone for a selfie with a supporter after a campaign rally, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Waterloo, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – Hillary Clinton will need broad support to win the 2016 presidential race, but young women are disrupting the establishment candidate’s plan of smoothly sailing to the Democratic nomination.

Young female voters are a reliably Democratic constituency. They’re largely unmarried, more liberal and highly motivated to vote. In short, Democratic candidates love them – and need them.

So here’s Hillary’s problem: young women just aren’t wild about her.

In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders bested Clinton by taking 80 percent of women voters younger than 30, reports the AP. Other states showed similar results in exit polling.

Split vote

Unlike in 2008, Clinton has proudly worn the “first female president” mantle and, by all appearances, expected women young and old to rally around her. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

While older women have embraced Clinton, the next generation looked leftward.

Haley, 20, admits that she’ll eventually vote for Clinton if necessary, but hopes Bernie Sanders prevails.

She said near the George Washington University campus, “I’d vote for Bernie not because he’s a man or a woman, but because he thinks the political system works for those who have the power, who have the money and the wealth – and a political system should be about everyone.”

“I just don’t want to vote for Hillary; I sort of feel like it’s Bill in the office again. And I think Bernie Sanders has a lot of key points and he’s been true since the beginning,” shared 23-year-old Sidney.

Hilla-realism

Hillary Clinton, Judy Chu
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Clinton supporters tend to focus more on political practicality than wish lists.

A 20-something woman decided that in 2016 her head will trump her gut in the voting booth, saying, “I would cheer for Bernie except I think Hillary has a more realistic chance.”

Even among Sanders supporters, the sense is that young women voters will get on board and back Clinton if – some would say, when – she captures the Democratic nomination.

Sidney, the Sanders super fan, paused for a few seconds when asked if she could envision herself voting for Clinton. She eventually responded, “Um … yes, probably, being a Democrat. Or I might look at Libertarian, even though that wouldn’t really make a difference.”

Other young people say the whole 2016 process has disenchanted them.

“I will not vote for any of them, because I don’t trust the system to legitimately take my vote into consideration,” explained Lark Dixon. She continued on Clinton, “I haven’t heard anything that was like, okay, yeah that’s valid in 2016 for me or anybody else that I know. A lot of my friends are African-American women and I don’t see what she has to say benefiting us in general.”

The Sanders generation

It’s worth noting that young people as a whole have gravitated toward Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) who built his platform on the millennial-luring carrots of economic equality and free college tuition.

In Iowa, Sanders nabbed 84 percent of the young vote (17-29 years old), compared to Clinton’s 14 percent.

Suffice it to say, young women are not alone in their attraction to the Democratic Socialist’s message.

Clinton momentum

Hillary Clinton could very well clinch the Democratic nomination following the March 15 contests, which include Illinois and Florida. After that, she will look to women for robust support as the general election race enters the homestretch.

The Washington Post points out that she won over Iowa’s women in January and has a deep well of support about minority women, which have become an increasingly vocal and powerful voting group nationwide.

An average of national polls give Clinton (47 percent) a five-point advantage over Sanders (42 percent) – much of that support coming from female voters.

Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales

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