Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson Lead With Millennial Voters

Clinton dominates support among young liberals, while support among young conservatives is more widely split.


Hillary Clinton/Facebook

"Millennials Favor Hillary Clinton in Harvard Poll," stated a Bloomberg Politics headline this morning. But don't despair just yet: the results of Harvard's Insitute of Politics (IOP) poll are a bit more nuanced than that. Among young Democrats—those 18- to 29-year-olds who said they're likely to vote in the 2016 Democratic primaries—Clinton does emerge as a clear front-runner; 47 percent said they back the 67-year-old Democrat in her bid for president. But that still leaves more than half of young liberal voters who don't dig Clinton, not to mention all the millennials who don't plan to vote Democrat at all. 

Overall, 55 percent of the more than 3,000 millennials surveyed said they would rather see a Democrat in the White House in 2017 than a Republican. [Only 5 percent said neither.] Black and Hispanic millennials show much more support for a Democratic president—87 percent and 68 percent, respectively—while a majority of young whites actually prefer a Republican leader next go round. Fifty-three percent of white millennials surveyed favored a Republican, with only 41 percent leaning Democrat. 

Aside from Clinton, other top candidates among the likely Democratic-primary voters were:

  • Elizabeth Warren >> 11 percent
  • Joe Biden >> 8 percent
  • Martin O'Malley >> 3 percent
  • Jim Webb >> 2 percent
  • Bernie Sanders >> 1 percent
  • Undecided >> 28 percent

No single prospective Republican candidate garnered more than 10 percent backing from young voters likely to cast a GOP primary ballot. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; that GOP candidate pool is currently much deeper than Democrats'. But some of the Republican front-runners among millennials are surprising, with Ben Carson leading the pack and Sarah Palin trumping folks such as Carli Fiorina, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio. Here's the GOP breakdown:

  • Ben Carson >> 10 percent
  • Rand Paul >> 8 percent
  • Jeb Bush >> 7 percent
  • Mike Huckabee >> 7 percent
  • Scott Walker >> 5 percent
  • Sarah Palin >> 5 percent
  • Ted Cruz >> 5 percent
  • Chris Christie >> 4 percent
  • Rick Perry >> 3 percent
  • Rick Santorum >> 3 percent
  • Marco Rubio >> 2 percent
  • Carli Fiorina >> 2 percent
  • Bobby Jindal >> 1 percent
  • George Pataki >> 1 percent
  • Mike Pence >> 0 percent
  • Lindsay Graham >> 0 percent
  • Undecided >> 36 percent 

Respondents unlikely to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary were not polled about their favored candidates. As such, the poll results may minimize millennial support for candidates such as Paul who (theoretically) appeal to libertarian voters and others not likely to vote in a major party primary. 

As for our current president: his approval ratings are up among millennials, after slipping in 2014. A firm 50 percent of those surveyed approve of President Obama's job performance (up from 43 percent in October 2014). Approval for Democrats in Congress has also risen since last fall (up from 35 percent support to 40 percent), while approval for Congressional Republicans has remained at 23 percent for the third consecutive IOP poll.