Donald Trump: "evil," "bully," "bigot," "misogynist." Hillary Clinton: "shady," "corrupt," "liar," "untrustworthy."
That's not to say they were equally negative on both major-party candidates. Of the eight people in this group, convened by Harvard University's Institute of Politics, just one—a 26-year-old white woman—was considering voting for Trump. A college graduate who works as a nanny and didn't want her name used, the woman described herself as a pro-choice former Democrat who's become overwhelmingly afraid of terrorism, but has concerns about Trump's temperament.
Of the other seven focus-group members, none were considering a Trump vote. But neither were they sold on Clinton. Asked to describe her in a few words, they tended to pair positive and negative attributes: "Shady but knowledgeable," said a male Asian-American medical student. "Hardworking, corrupt, real-deal politician," said a female African American office worker.
Their attitudes are in keeping with polls that find that Clinton's support from the younger generation is lacking, despite young voters' distaste for Trump. As Ron Brownstein recently noted, Millennials' skepticism about Clinton—and whether she can convert them—could be the election's deciding factor. Recognizing that fact, Clinton has recently redoubled her outreach to Millennials, giving a speech aimed at the cohort here last month. She’s also aggressively deploying surrogates ranging from Sanders to John Legend, who is scheduled to appear at college campuses in Ohio this weekend urging students to register and vote.
Some liberal Millennials have so internalized Sanders' onetime critique of Clinton's character—that she’s just another cog in a corrupt machine—that they are implacably opposed to her. That was the case for one focus-group participant, Amanda, a 27-year-old human-resources worker who's also a single mother enrolled in a holistic-health certificate program. Amanda's description of Clinton: "Bitch, liar, false." She's planning to vote for Green Party nominee Jill Stein.
Amanda's attitudes were partly driven by disillusion with Obama, whom she voted for. "I'm just not pumped about what he did while he was in office," she said. "I feel like a lot of stuff crumbled while he's been in there." Her excitement about Obamacare, she said, has given way to dismay at her rising health-insurance premiums and deductibles.
But the bulk of the group seemed open to Clinton despite their misgivings. Tim, the 26-year-old business consultant, was the group member who said Trump reminded him of Hitler. A registered Republican, he didn't agree with Clinton's political positions, but he regarded Trump as a "bigot" who would embarrass the nation. Viewing the third-party options as a waste of his vote, Tim admitted he wasn't really undecided, but wanted to keep his options open in case Clinton stumbled.