Robert Sarvis

Virginia Millennials Say They Love Libertarian Rob Sarvis, But Will They Show Up on Election Day?


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Dwight Burdette

As Virginia prepares to elect its next U.S. senator, how will the state's millennials cast their ballots? A statewide poll released today finds young people prefer "anyone but Republican Ed Gillespie." Bloomberg Politics reports:

Democratic Senator Mark Warner captured 47 percent in a survey of voters between the ages of 18 and 35, which was released Thursday by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. The first runner-up was Libertarian Robert Sarvis with 24 percent. Eighteen percent said they were undecided, and 11 percent said they will choose Gillespie. [emphasis added]

In other words, the libertarian candidate appears to enjoy six times as much support from the millennial generation as from the electorate at large. (Real Clear Politics' polling average currently puts Sarvis at just 4 percent.) However, there are some very good reasons to think that level of support for Sarvis from young voters might not actually materialize.

In a previous post here at Hit & Run, I discussed the phenomenon of polls tending to overstate third party candidates' preformance on election day. But there's another problem with taking this finding at face value, which the Bloomberg article itself points out: It assumes young voters will show up at the polls.

It's unclear how many millennials will actually go to the polls. 

"A majority say they are certain to vote, but only 44% say they are paying close or somewhat close attention, so it's easy to imagine many who might intend to vote not actually making it to the polls on Election Day," said Wason Center Director Quentin Kidd in a news release.

Historically, young people cast ballots at far lower rates than older voters. According to a study from the U.S. Census Bureau, released in April:

In every presidential election since 1964, young voters between the ages of 18 through 24 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups…Overall, America's youngest voters have moved towards less engagement over time, as 18- through 24-year-olds' voting rates dropped from 50.9 percent in 1964 to 38.0 percent in 2012.

But that's not all—even older voters have a track record of being, shall we say, overly ambitious when reporting their likelihood of voting. Consider the Scottish independence referendum as one high-profile example from this year. An Ipsos MORI poll taken just before the election found some 95 percent saying they were certain to turn out—a 10 on a 10-point scale. In fact, just under 85 percent of registered voters actually cast ballots—a "record number," and no wonder considering the historic nature of the election. But it still wasn't 95 percent.

And the number of people who misrepresent their vote likelihood is often much larger than that. A 2013 Harvard Kennedy School study looked at a series of races and found that in all of them, "a sizable fraction of those who self-predicted that they would vote mispredicted and did not actually vote." In one case, more than half of self-predicted voters failed to turn out.

So while a majority of Virginia millennials might believe themselves to be certain to vote—and nearly a quarter say they'd vote for Sarvis—chances are, quite a few of them are mistaken.

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  1. I’ll be voting for that asshole. Warner is going to win easily though.

    1. And will probably be indicted over the job offering thing before he leaves office.

      The sad fact is that in the past someone like Warner would have been an example of a reasonable Democrat. Today, he is just as big of a shit weasel and Reid or any of them.

      1. In the past Warner was a “reasonable” democrat. He’s been pushed pretty far left by the voters in nova and va beach.

        1. His campaign is nothing short of pathetic. He has one commercial that consists of a woman saying Gillespie is going to repeal Roe v. Wade and that is all she needs to hear. It manages to insult the intelligence of the entire human race in one thirty second spot.

          The rest of his commercials consist of some variation of “we need to kick those assholes in Washington out of office and work together for real reform” as if he apparently served in the Senate on another planet for the last six years.

          It is the most pathetic campaign I have ever seen.

          1. I have yet to hear a campaign ad for anyone in any election where anyone states there platform. Ed Gillispie the lobbyist, Mark Warner the Obamaphile, Barbara Comstack a women. Honestly the Barbara Comstack ads are hilarious.

          2. Who you voting for gov?

            1. I Maryland? I am sure they all suck anyway. I will just cop out and vote a straight ticket of Republican and No while making sure I pick up one of those teacher’s union flyers so I know who to vote against in the school board elections. Also, I will be as usual voting to recall every judge on the ballot. I don’t anything about them so I have no reason to see why they shouldn’t be recalled.

              1. Not a Brown fan? The Dems could run a plank of wood and win every election in MD.

                1. Its pathetic and sad because it could be a nice state, but thanks to the brain dead idiots in the DC burbs and the welfare queens in Baltimore, it is doomed to be California with a worse climate.

  2. Will the Millenials show up on election day?

    Sure, if they can get their moms to give them a lift.

  3. Remember when Millennial Monthly was called Reason?

  4. What is the non-response rate?

  5. How hard is it to go to a polling station? Seriously, I in the morning and I’ve never had to wait more than 2 minutes. It’s one thing to say you aren’t going to vote, but to say you will and then just decide not to because…? I just don’t get it.

    Anyway, I’ll be voting for him. But I saw him speak at UVA a few weeks ago, and I have to say, he wasn’t exactly firing up the crowd. Not that it was a very big crowd, but still…

    1. Why would anyone with an once of ambition or charisma ever run on the L ticket? You have no chance at winning in the world of two party rule.

      1. Well I hope someone would eventually run because it isn’t always about winning *this* election. It’s sometimes about building out political network for future elections.

        1. In my opinion, if you are the type of person who is really interested in getting into political office and willing to drag both yourself and your family trudge through the mud and the ugly dogfight that is a serious campaign. A) you’re a complete sociopathic narcissist, B) you will actually gravitate to putting yourself in the best position to win right now and C) you really shouldn’t be in charge of anything, because you are a asshole.

          1. Unfortunately, this is why libertarians will never win anything ever.

            1. I don’t see why not.

              Lots of them have part A) and C) down pat.

              1. Did you not read B).

        2. Also at some point it has to be about winning “this” election.

  6. Even if Sarvis gets only 4% of the vote, that’s still quite an accomplishment.

    He has a good (but not specific) libertarian message going on his site, but then this caught my eye –

    “Robert Sarvis also best represents the increasingly diverse population of Virginia. He is mixed-race (half-Chinese) and in a mixed-race marriage.”

    One of these days the internet will catch him saying something like “I don’t believe in the minimum wage” and the lefty side of the internet will doubt whether his wife is really black at all.

  7. Too long for alt-text.


  8. alt-text: “And I’m sorry.”

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