Will Millennials' Enthusiasm For Sanders Transfer To Clinton?

Jul 29, 2016
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Hillary Clinton made her own direct appeal last night to young voters here in Philadelphia when she thanked Bernie Sanders. And that drew raucous applause.

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HILLARY CLINTON: And to all of your supporters here and around the country, I want you to know I've heard you. Your cause is our cause.

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GREENE: And that message was meant for many of the people our colleague, Asma Khalid, has been speaking to this week. Hey, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: You know, one thing I've noticed as I've been walking around the hall this week - so many young faces. And many of them, Asma, I mean, came to support Bernie Sanders.

KHALID: That's right. And, you know, millennials actually now rival baby boomers as potentially the largest chunk of the electorate. That is, of course, you know, if they vote.

GREENE: If they vote, and I guess if you're the Hillary Clinton campaign, you want to know if they will vote for her. I mean, could this be a problem for her, trying to get these Bernie Sanders voters who are young, to make sure they're behind her in November?

KHALID: You know, David, it's hard to suss out exactly where young voters stand at this point. In the arena this week, and I'm sure you heard, there were boos coming from some Bernie Sanders supporters in the stands. So there are certainly skeptics. One young woman, Jen Ramos, she's a Bernie Sanders delegate from Texas. And she, I would say, is kind of the embodiment of some of the issues that matter most to her generation.

JEN RAMOS: I am a minority in every sense of the word. I am a female. I am Hispanic. I am under the age of 30. I work as a waitress, where the federal minimum wage for a wait staff has not changed since 1992. I am the daughter of a single mother. All these different social issues that I've had to deal with in my entire life are the reasons that engage me into being politically motivated. And this is what brings me to the polls.

KHALID: And, David, she was sporting a whole bunch of Bernie Sanders buttons all over her. But she told me that she does intend to vote for Clinton in November. That was kind of the majority opinion among the young Bernie Sanders supporters I spoke to, is that they may not love Hillary Clinton, they may not canvass for her, but they will vote for her.

GREENE: If Hillary Clinton wanted to take younger people and take them to that next level from just planning tentatively to vote to actually being really engaged, are there issues that she should think about?

KHALID: David, this is the most diverse generation to date. And some of the census data I've seen suggests that more than 40 percent of millennials identify as minorities. Issues of racial equality come up time and again in some of my conversations. But overall, regardless of race, I've heard a lot about income inequality, college affordability, immigration and reducing the role of money in politics.

I did go to a millennial town hall this week, and I met a young black woman. Her name is Osaremen Okolo. And she kind of explained the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders divide in her generation this way.

OSAREMEN OKOLO: I think based on your background, based on the color of your skin, on your ethnicity, it's much easier for you to say that you are never Hillary in an election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I think it takes a sort of privilege to be able to say that.

KHALID: So, David, this is a point I heard time and again, actually, this week when I was talking to young voters of color. And that's the sense that if you are black or Latino or Muslim - they feel that there is more at stake in this election with Donald Trump on the Republican side and that perhaps their very presence, their very identity in this country is under threat. And therefore, they don't think that they can vote for a third-party candidate.

GREENE: So more pressure to vote for Hillary Clinton regardless of what they have felt about her coming to this point.

KHALID: And, David, polling from the Harvard Institute of Politics actually reinforces that idea. They found really divergent favorable-unfavorable ratings for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump by race. In other words, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to be equally unpopular among young white women. But you see Hillary Clinton doing much better among black and brown young women. And that bore out in interviews that I've done all week.

GREENE: So, Asma, we see those numbers, you know, among blacks, among Latinos. Hillary Clinton has that support. But we might not know how passionate it is.

KHALID: That's true, David. I mean, and look, that's also only a chunk of the millennial generation. Clinton's unpopularity among millennials as a whole could impact turnout this November. And we've already seen Donald Trump try to woo some of those Bernie Sanders supporters.

GREENE: Asma, thanks a lot.

KHALID: You're welcome.

GREENE: Asma Khalid, part of an NPR team that includes so many editors, producers, reporters, and so many others who have spent sleepless time in Cleveland and now in Philadelphia covering two conventions in two weeks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.