Democrats. In recent years, they’ve come to be known as the “fun” party. Certainly, they’re the party that has political candidates rushing to social media platforms like Snapchat and Twitter to fight for the requisite “millennial vote.” The 2016 presidential election is no exception.
Politicians and journalists alike are agreeing that young people, especially college students, are becoming more engaged in politics, and ultimately more influential on a candidate’s success. President Obama won at least 60 percent of voters between the age of 18 and 29 in both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, surpassing all other candidates from the past three decades, according to the Washington Post. If this is so, then why has Hillary Clinton, who has long been seen as the indisputable Democratic nominee, only recently begun to focus her attention toward appealing to young voters? Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate, has been hugely popular among young voters, more than doubling his polling numbers since announcing his candidacy in late May. He fills ballrooms and concert venues with throngs of college students proudly adorned with “Feel the Bern” t-shirts and buttons.
Sanders’ tremendous popularity among students is likely associated with his liberal approach toward college tuition. Clinton’s team has certainly taken notice. Their strategy announcement came out shortly after polling data was released that showed the popularity gap between Clinton and Sanders at an all time low.
Since this shift, Clinton’s campaign has adopted a determined approach towards connecting her with younger voters. Clinton live-tweeted the Republican primary debate in September, and sent out comical GIFs via text message in reaction and response to statements made by the candidates. She has also been interviewed on popular talk shows including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
Clinton has made appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” a late night sketch show known for its political satire. In a recent SNL sketch mocking the first Democratic candidate debate, Kate McKinnon, who plays Clinton in the sketches, deadpanned that she envied Sanders for being able to “cuss and show emotion in public.” Albeit satirical, this statement is not far removed from the truth. Often described as reserved and stoic, Clinton is hoping to change the way she is perceived by focusing on events such as backyard parties. This will allow her to show a more informal side, according to her campaign.
That being said, will Hillary’s efforts seem genuine? Or will they look like a transparent game of keep-up to the young voters? Come election time, these burning questions will be answered in the only way they can be: through the polls.
By: Brandon Campbell ’18