Among CIRCLE’s key findings:
- In Michigan, a state considered essential to Clinton’s “blue wall” of electoral support, the youth vote was the only age group to favor Clinton over Trump—who ultimately won the state.
- Trump and Clinton split the youth vote in Iowa, with each receiving 45 percent. Clinton was favored by the youngest voters (ages 18-24) while voters aged 25-29 strongly supported Trump.
- In Nevada, where Clinton won by 26,000 votes, 18 to 29-year-olds favored her 52 to Trump’s 35 percent, adding 35,000 votes to Clinton’s column.
When reporting on these data, it’s important to remember that the “youth vote” encompasses a diverse group of voters, and generalizations about them should be avoided. An 18-year-old and a 29-year-old might have supported the same candidate but their reasons for doing so can be—and often are—very different.
“Young voters supported Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates more than any other age group did,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said. “However, they are a heterogeneous generation, and their choices differed greatly depending on their own race, their state, and other factors.”
That’s no solace to Clinton’s young supporters. “I’m just really still in shock,” Kelley said, “and nervous for the future.” While she admittedly reads left-leaning news sites and surrounds herself with friends who are also Democrats, she said she didn’t realize that people in other parts of the country felt so differently.
One common trait of younger voters, according to CIRCLE researchers, is they tend to put greater stock in the causes they care about rather than the appeal of a particular candidate’s personality.
That was certainly the case for Cassandra Behler in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Behler, 19, works between 50 and 60 hours per week at two jobs and takes classes in literature and anthropology at Washtenaw Community College—when she can afford it. While crafting lattes and washing dishes Tuesday afternoon at a local coffeehouse where she’s a barista, Behler said she would be voting for Clinton, after having first supported Bernie Sanders. Trump’s policy stances made him an impossible choice, she said.
“I don’t think the personalities of either candidate is appealing,” Behler said. “But (Clinton) is the most progressive candidate. Even when Trump says ‘I want to make to make America great again’ he really means he wants to rewind time.”
Behler added that she had tried to convince some of her friends not to follow through on plans to support a third-party candidate: “That’s just a waste of a vote.” Some of them didn’t intend to vote at all, which disappointed her. National exit-polling data showed that 8 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds backed neither candidate on Tuesday.
“This is about who do we want to be the face of our country,” Behler said. “I don’t want that face to be Donald Trump’s.”