The election is only four months away, and the unlikeability of the candidates has pushed millennials into a rare state — they’re considering a third party candidate.
This time, Libertarian Gary Johnson has more youth support than Republican Donald Trump.
The GenForward survey, a collaboration of the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that millennials are voting against candidates rather than for them.
Hillary Clinton garnered 38 percent support among millennials ages 18-30, followed by “someone else” at 22 percent, and Donald Trump at 17 percent. Another 16 percent said they will “probably not vote” and 7 percent are undecided.
That’s a deep disparity for Trump: his support barely edges out millennials who don’t see a reason to vote. The level above apathy or principled non-voting is lukewarm support for Trump.
Clinton shouldn’t be comforted, though. For Clinton and Trump, voters aren’t voting for them so much as they’re voting against the other candidate.
Of Clinton supporters and Clinton-leaning undecided voters, 53 percent are voting for Clinton to express opposition to Donald Trump. The groups most likely to vote in opposition are Asian Americans (65 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (62 percent).
The pro-Trump Clinton opposition is likewise staggering. Trump fares marginally better, with only 50 percent of his support an expression of opposition against Clinton. Again, the groups most likely to vote in opposition are Asian Americans (64 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (51 percent).
What millennials yearn for is another option. Americans have a record-breaking distaste for Clinton and Trump. The Democratic and Republican candidates are so widely disliked that they’ve made a third party candidate attractive.
A staggering 71 percent of millennials want a third party candidate to run. That’s great news for Johnson, and the GenForward survey isn’t the first to find him polling better than Trump among millennials.
The high demand for a third party candidate doesn’t mean that all the support would go to Johnson — Green Party candidate Jill Stein has registered some support too. Nor is it a guarantee that Johnson would be competitive.
A third party candidate could push Clinton and Trump to revise some of their positions. It could make a livelier debate. Some millennials might think a Johnson or Stein would suction support away from the candidate they don’t vote for, and thus make a Clinton or Trump election more likely. The reasons vary. It could be a self-interest and political move, or an embrace of an American desire for diversity and strong debate.
What should concern both major-party candidates is why so many voters dislike them. It’s not a simple matter of policy, which is changeable. For Clinton, 72 percent of millennials thought she was “not honest and trustworthy.” Only 55 percent think she’s qualified to be president.
For Trump, it’s even worse. Eighty percent of millennials thought he was “not honest and trustworthy,” and only 21 percent think he’s qualified to be president. Additionally, 68 percent of millennials think Trump is racist, whereas only 19 percent think Clinton is racist.
So is the 2016 election. The major candidates are historically disliked. Neither of them can get a majority of their supporters to vote for them in anything other than a protest vote. A huge majority want a third party candidate. Whether either candidate is qualified for the presidency, in the public’s eye, is suspect.
Millennials don’t have a candidate in the 2016 election. They only have a hope that it won’t be as bad as it seems.