WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton's lead over Donald Trump among Millennials, while still massive, has narrowed as the presidential election heads into its final stretch, a USA TODAY/Rock the Vote Millennial Poll finds.
In the space of just two weeks, Clinton's support among likely voters 18 to 34 years old dropped six percentage points, to 62% from 68%, between early October and late October. Trump's support edged up one point in the survey, taken last week before the FBI announcement Friday of new emails found in the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of State.
Clinton continues to have a huge advantage over Trump among younger voters, but the findings reinforce questions about whether she can count on Millennials — a crucial part of President Obama's electoral coalition — to turn out to vote in a contest that seems to be tightening and has been thrown into new turmoil.
"I was kind of a Bernie (Sanders) supporter, but that's not happening anymore, so I've got to suck it up," says Anastasia Van Ryck Degroot, 21, a student from Hoboken, N.J., who was among those surveyed. In a follow-up phone interview, she says she has gotten more enthusiastic about backing Clinton after watching the presidential debates, and she has ruled out the alternative. "Trump is a menace to society."
Clinton does hold some powerful weapons with Millennials that Trump lacks: influential friends.
President Obama's endorsement was rated as "very important" by 34% of those surveyed, including 54% of Democrats. The embrace of Sanders, the Vermont senator whose presidential bid in the Democratic primaries was fueled by his strength among younger voters, was seen as very important by 26%, including 43% of those who had backed him.
"His blessing towards Hillary Clinton made me feel more than I should vote for her," says Jonathan Richards, 26, a personal assistant from Westbury, on New York's Long Island. "If he trusted her, then I could."
India Alcorn, 25, a stay-at-home mother from Florida's Spring Hill, north of Tampa, was less persuaded. "It seemed very forced, almost," she says of Sanders' endorsement of Clinton. She's still undecided. "I'm terrified of Trump and terrified of Hillary, so it's kind of in-between on them. I don't know which one is the lesser evil, basically."
She hesitates to cast her ballot for her preferred candidate, Libertarian Gary Johnson. "It's not good that it comes down to voting for a third party," she frets, "only because people say third party is kind of pointless and all that."
Trump continues to show historic weakness among younger voters, backed by 21%. And he doesn't have the advantage of being able to deploy surrogates with sway. The endorsement of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's most outspoken supporters, was rated as "very important" by just 10% of younger Americans.
That influence was dwarfed by the power of parents ("very important" for 31%) and friends (26%).
What's more, despite declarations at campaign rallies appealing for support from African Americans, Trump is backed by only 6% of black Millennials who are likely to vote, another historic low. He is supported by 19% of Latinos.
The poll of 1,299 young adults, taken Oct. 24-27 by Ipsos Public Affairs, included an over-sample of racial minorities and Hispanics to provide statistically significant data for a breakdown of presidential support. The online poll has a credibility interval, akin to a margin of error, of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the full sample and 5.5 points for the subsample of 668 likely voters.
Among likely voters, Clinton leads Trump among whites by more than 2-1, 57%-27%. But her yawning Millennium margin comes from her 14-1 support among African Americans (84%-6%); 4-1 support among Asian Americans (67%-15%), and 3-1 support among Latinos (66%-19%).
Her lopsided support among minority and Hispanic Millennials mirrors her strength among those demographic groups in the electorate generally. But white Millennials are much more likely to support her than their elders. In the latest USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll, released last week, Clinton trailed Trump among white likely voters overall 41% to 45%.
There's another way Millennial voting patterns differ from the electorate at large. Among all voters, Clinton has built a solid lead among women while the divide among men is close. But in this survey, as in the four previous polls in the USA TODAY/Rock the Vote series this year, men under 35 are much more likely to support Clinton than their female counterparts: 56% of younger men compared with 43% of younger women.
"I went back and forth for a while" between Clinton and Trump, says Natalie Spencer, 24, an IT worker from Rockville, Md., just outside Washington. She was interested in Obama's endorsement but has settled on supporting Trump because of questions about Clinton's honesty. "It just seems sketchy to have someone like that for president," she says of the former secretary of State.
"Hillary Clinton is a liar and Donald Trump is, you know," says Marcus Reynolds, 32, who clerks at a grocery store in Detroit. "But I'm for Hillary Clinton because I'm a Democrat to my heart ... and because Clinton to me is more qualified."