What This Election Taught Us About Millennial Voters

Had only millennials voted, Clinton would've won in a landslide.
Corrected

How Donald Trump Pulled Off an Upset for the Ages

The history books won't count millennials among the coalition that put president-elect Donald Trump into office, as most younger voters came out for Hillary Clinton. But in a departure from past voting patterns, young millennials were also keen on third-party candidates this year—nearly one in 10 voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or wrote in their own candidate. Here are three ways to parse the numbers, based on an analysis of exit polls by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement

1. Democrats took the millennial vote—just not among whites.

Among the younger portion of the millennial generation, 18 to 29 year olds, Trump earned 37 percent of the vote to Clinton's 55 percent. Millennials of color were considerably more likely to support Clinton than Trump, Circle found, while young white voters actually threw more support behind the winner. Trump secured 48 percent of the white vote in the 18-to-29 age group, while Clinton won just 43 percent. Still, Republicans fared poorly with youth vote overall. The election had the fourth-lowest turnout by young voters for a GOP nominee since 1972. 

2. The emergence of young third-party voters 

All but the very oldest millennials were too young to cast a ballot in 2000, when a third-party candidate last played an arguable role in the outcome. Eight percent of the 18-to-29 demographic voted for someone other than a major party nominee this year, compared with just 3 percent in 2012. "The percentage of youth supporting the Democratic candidate was lower than in both of President Obama’s elections, and closer to the level achieved by Bill Clinton in his successful 1996 campaign," wrote Circle.

Young millennials were slightly less eager to vote for the Democratic nominee than in 2012, when President Obama earned 60 percent of their votes to Mitt Romney's 37 percent. Millennials made up the same percentage of the electorate—19 percent—in 2016 as in 2012.

3. Not enough millennials voting to swing states

Battleground states felt the impact of Democratic-leaning millennials, but it wasn't enough to swing the outcome to Clinton. In Florida, for instance, Clinton earned 57 percent of the 18-to-29 year old vote compared with 35 percent for Trump. In North Carolina, Clinton took 60 percent of this vote compared to Trump's 36 percent. Had only millennials voted, Clinton would've won the election in a landslide, with 473 electoral votes to Trump's 32.