Age and death mean big changes in the US electorate

In America, millennials -- also known as Generation Y -- are people born after 1988, more or less. A recent poll by Quinnipiac (a top brand) found 44% of them say they won’t vote for Clinton or Trump. Hillary still led with 31%, and Trump was third with 19%, but their number two choice is Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico who is running as the Libertarian Party candidate, with 29%, and fourth is the Green Party’s Jill Stein with 15%.

Hillary Clinton by Ann Telnaes

Hillary Clinton by Ann Telnaes

Donald Trump by Steve Brodner

Donald Trump by Steve Brodner

 This third-party movement among millennials matters because there are now 70 million of them eligible to vote –equal to the number of baby-boom voters. During the time they have grown into voting age, half the people born before the Boomers have died, so the demographic shift is profound. Over those same 16 years, mobile phones have made polling less reliable, since more-mobile voters have less-accessible phone numbers.

 Many factors make polls unreliable: an Associated Press-University of Chicago survey conducted about the same time as the one I cited above concluded that many polls overstate young people’s support for Johnson and Stein because they under-sample black, Latino, and Asian American millennials. Correcting for that, and using their own survey data, they report only 11% of millennials are for Johnson, and 4% Stein.

 Polls aside, in 2008 and 2012 Obama got over 60% of the under-30s, but Clinton hasn’t won them this year. As November 8th approaches, more might switch to her because Johnson and Stein have disappointed in different ways – he’s a flake and the Greens are still building a base --  and because once you’re inside the ballot box pondering the next four years of your life, the lesser-evils can look less evil.

 I’ve written here previously about the weird scenario involving Gary Johnson, and last week America’s top election predictor Nate Silver posted his version of the story under the headlineThe craziest end to the 2016 campaign runs through New Mexico.” Silver’s website 538.com refers to the fact that 538 delegates meet in the Electoral College after the Nov 8 election to choose the President, and he reckoned this scenario has a 0.15% chance of happening (about the odds you’d have given Cronulla or the Western Bulldogs a year ago): “Clinton wins 267 electoral votes, Trump has 266, and Johnson has New Mexico’s five. With no candidate possessing an Electoral College majority, the election would go to the House of Representatives, with Clinton, Trump and Johnson all eligible”, Johnson’s eligibility depending on his winning his home state, or Alaska where he has a snowball’s chance.

Now, with Republicans likely to win more House seats on Nov 8th, that would favour a President Trump. But if Clinton won more actual votes across the nation, House members might want a compromise, and because the Constitution allows the House to pick any one of the three candidates who won most delegates to the Electoral College, that could be President Johnson. (See my June 12th post for more arcane election scenarios and Johnson weirdness.)

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I will be kicking all this and more around with the venerable election buff Kerry O’Brien at 6:30pm Wednesday October 19th at the Courthouse Hotel in Mullumbimby – part of the New Politics in the Pub series put on by our local activists’ think tank, the Ngara Institute. 

Phillip FrazerComment