It was never going to be easy for Clinton to woo younger voters. Her status as a government insider clashes with millennial distrust of government. She has a track record, including her more than a decade of opposition to gay marriage and support for the Iraq War, that puts her at odds with socially liberal and war weary younger voters. She’s also played the role of opponent to Democratic candidates who have proven particularly popular with younger voters—Sanders and Obama.
Millennial voters are acutely aware of her flaws, but as the race drags on many sympathize with Clinton as they see her in a different light than when the race started. “She’s not a perfect candidate,” said Amelia Yousey, a 21-year-old from Upstate New York, who was a fan of Sanders, but plans to vote for Clinton. “She’s been guarded in a way that hasn’t helped her, but I think that’s partly a reaction to how much criticism she’s faced.”
Jonathan Rezach, a 27-year-old from California, once worried that Clinton was too cozy with corporations, but says he has since become more of a realist. “Wall street and big banks finance a lot of our world and are necessary institutions,” he said. When Clinton came under attack for her Wall Street speeches, Rezach looked into the paid speaking industry and concluded there’s nothing particularly sinister about it. “She did a job, and she got paid for it,” he said, “I don’t think doing a job necessarily makes you corrupt.”
Millennial voters aren’t only voting for Clinton because of Trump. She may not be as thrilling a candidate as they might have wanted, but Clinton converts have found things to like about her all the same. “I’d characterize her as the smartest girl in the class,” said Cameron Strickland, a 26-year-old from North Carolina who supported Sanders during the primary. Now, some younger voters lament that everyone else seems to give her such a hard time.“She just seems so intelligent, I think it’s a shame that people can’t get past sort of how boring she is to see that she’s extremely prepared,” Strickland added.
Young voters who plan to vote Clinton after previously supporting Sanders add that it is inspiring to vote for a candidate who could make history as the first woman president. “I didn’t really think about it until recently, but it really is the ultimate glass ceiling,” Edwards said. That’s not the only inspirational quality some millennials have come to see in Clinton. “In a way, I think the most inspiring thing about her is that she just keeps going even after being subject to so many attacks,” he added.
Meanwhile, many millennials believe a sexist double-standard is at play in the criticism she faces. “It’s hard not to think that,” Yousey said. “I think almost any woman can relate to the idea of being extremely prepared, and people totally disregarding you.”