Hillary Clinton has long struggled with younger voters, but the problem now threatens to cost her the election. Clinton’s address to millennials this week underscored her awareness of how crucial they are to her chances in November. But her support from voters ages 18 to 35 has declined by double digits since August, raising an urgent question for Democrats: Why are millennial voters so reluctant to embrace Clinton?
On the surface, Clinton should do well with younger voters. Millennials are the most progressive generation in America, and Hillary Clinton’s voting record in the Senate was reliably liberal on most issues. Millennials strongly support gender equality even more strongly than they do racial equality, so backing the first female candidate for president from a major party should be a no-brainer.
But millennials also grew up in the shadow of the Great Recession, and this has radicalized them in a way that is often difficult for older generations to comprehend. In a recent survey, millennials favored socialism over capitalism by more than ten percentage points; by contrast, seniors favored capitalism by more than 40 points. For many young people, the first great civil-rights movement of their lifetimes was Occupy Wall Street—primarily a class-conscious revolt against financial elites, as opposed to a classic civil-rights struggle over racial discrimination.