Even in Arkansas, Clinton Struggles For Millennial Vote

Feb 22, 2016

It's been widely talked about: Hillary Clinton's millennial problem. Over 80 percent of people under age 30 voted for Bernie Sanders in the first three primaries. Even in Arkansas, where Clinton was once first lady, she does not appear to have a strong lead over Sanders among young people. 

Sanders does not have as much of the youth vote in Arkansas as in other states, but he is holding his own. While the sample sizes have been small, a recent poll by Talk Business & Politics in collaboration with Hendrix College found the two just about head to head among young voters.

KUAR News set out to get the thoughts of millennials at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock who align themselves with the Democratic Party.

“Bernie is a sign that people are not happy with the current situation as far as money being in politics and as far as corruption goes. He's very trustworthy. I also am a heavy believer in taking care of your fellow man, and that's sort of one of his biggest platforms, right? Providing for people that can't afford to do otherwise,” said 24-year-old John Mann, a junior at UALR and a Sanders supporter.

Of the six students willing to be interviewed for this report, two supported Clinton and four supported Sanders.

“You know, you could call me a typical millennial, you could call me an idealist and they're all correct. What I've seen that I like most about Bernie is that he doesn't care about pleasing people. He's going to say what he likes and if you don't like it, he doesn't care. Now, I can see this being an issue in a Republican-run Congress. But, those things aside, I believe that someone who truly believes in what he is saying and believes in what he works toward will make it happen,” said 22-year-old Alexis Williams, an English major.

Twenty-year-old Brian Gregory, a Clinton supporter, disagrees. He says while he feels Clinton and Sanders are quite similar on the issues, he has a problem with what he calls Sanders' “my way or the highway” approach.

“Bernie Sanders is tapping into millennials that are angry at the way Washington has gone. And they say 'Well, if the pragmatic approach doesn't work then we're just going to try to take it all.' The problem is that a lot of young people don't actually know about politics and they don't know how these things work. It takes compromise. You can't get what you want every single time,” said Gregory.

“Hillary Clinton is the epitome of what I believe a strong woman is. I am by no means voting with my ovaries, which is something that a lot of women who are supporting Hillary have heard this election season. But, overall, I feel like she is the best candidate because of her electability,” said 19-year-old Faith Thomas.

Fellow student Hugh Benfer, who is also 19 years old and majoring in systems mechanical engineering, says he supports Sanders because he's more down-to-earth and consistent.

“When I compare him to Hillary Clinton, I see her changing her views a lot. I just find it hard to trust someone who changes their views,” said Benfer.

That is a sentiment echoed by 25-year-old Jonathan Crafton. “Now she's more a case of 'What can I do to get more voters?' That's all she's really caring about,” said Crafton.

However, Benfer does feel Clinton is being judged more harshly as a candidate because she is a woman.

“We still have lots of negative views on women in leadership roles. As bad as that sounds, it's just a reality. I think it's definitely changing and we have more women in politics, but right now it's still pretty harsh on Hillary Clinton,” said Benfer.

To what extent millennials will make it to the polls has yet to be seen. Turnout among this group has traditionally been low. Some of the students we talked to did say they were feeling overwhelmed with balancing college with family life or a job.

“I have a young daughter and a wife who works nights, so I just have to find time when we can both go out there and vote,” said Mann.

“By the time I get off work, there's no time because I still have to go home and pass out because I have to be up at 5 a.m. for work. Yeah, that's the biggest barrier for me,” said Crafton.

But Williams says she thinks voter turnout among millennials will be strong.

“I believe they'll come out because I see it on Facebook. I see it on Twitter. 'I voted today. I voted today. I early voted today.' Bernie is able to bring that out in people. They are voting. I'm not worried at all about people coming out,” said Williams. 

In the last Democratic presidential primary in Arkansas in 2008, exit polls showed voters age 18 to 29 accounted for 9 percent of the vote.