Hillary Clinton is having trouble convincing millennials to vote for her.
Two recent polls out this week show that a third of voters under the age of 30 are turning to third-party candidates such as the Green Party's Jill Stein or the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson.
A Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday found that Clinton still bests Trump 55-34 percent among young voters, but strategists say the polls are concerning, especially since President Obama received about 60 percent of the millennial vote in 2012.
“Those are tough numbers,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, calling support from millennials “critical” to a Clinton victory in November. “You have to have enough millennials to offset the baby boomers that she loses, and right now, she's underperforming with white voters.”
“She has got to do better there,” a former Clinton aide acknowledged. “No other way around it.”
Clinton is expected to give a speech in Philadelphia on Monday speaking directly to the younger demographic and “lay out the stakes of the election,” as the campaign put it. The event follows a laser-focused push this week in North Carolina, where she hosted a call with students to discuss why their support is crucial.
She’s also sending top surrogates like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) the candidate many millennials gravitated to during the Democratic primary, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to Ohio this weekend.
Polls of that state this week found Clinton trailing Trump by 5 points.
In five events across the Buckeye state, the two senators will highlight Clinton’s policy proposals geared at millennials, including a plan to make community college free and proposals to have students graduate from college without debt. They are also expected to discuss other issues including health care, immigration and an increase in the minimum wage.
The sweep across Ohio follows a week of visits by vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, who met with students at a local high school in the state and even made a quick trip up to the University of Michigan. Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, visited Florida Atlantic University, while Chelsea Clinton held a panel at Wake Forest University.
Even with top surrogates like Obama and first lady Michelle Obama out in full force, Simmons said Clinton has to do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to courting the millennial vote.
"You have to go talk to the voters, the campaign can't outsource the outreach to surrogates and expect that person to seal the deal for them,” he said. “President Obama can't do it. Elizabeth Warren can't do it. Hillary is going to be their president. She’s the one who needs to do it.”
Clinton aides said they are aware of what she needs to do, and they’ve built a grassroots effort to try and build support among young voters. At more than 280 college campuses, including at historically black colleges, the campaign has registered and re-registered students in addition to holding roundtable. Off campus, the campaign has also set up “sneaker store” registration parties, policy roundtables and issue brunches to help get out the vote.
Willliam Galston, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution who served as a policy adviser to Bill Clinton, said he doesn’t think the young voters have been driven away by Clinton’s policy proposals.
“Millennials by definition have a shallower pool of experience in politics and young people are typically moved by the sorts of characteristics which are not her strong suit, and that showed very clearly throughout the campaign,” Galston said. “I don’t think the issue is a substantive policy issue,” but rather matters of style and character.
While Clinton isn’t performing as well as Obama with millennials, she is doing well with older voters, something that can help counter-balance her lack of support from their younger counterparts.
African-American seniors, in particular, helped Clinton trounce Sanders in the South during the primary race. She won some southern states by as much as 85 percent with voters over 65 years old, according to CNN exit polls at the time.
Cal Jillson, a professor at Southern Methodist University, said that while Clinton is lagging with millennials, she’d need to look elsewhere to help put her over the edge.
“She will need to drive her vote up somewhere else, say among suburban women and college educated whites,” Jillson said.
“In a close election, which this one looks like it is going to be, every demographic target group matters,” he said.
But Jillson added, “She can win even if the millennial vote is down, because those younger voters who do vote are warier of Trump than of her.”