Millennials really don’t like Donald Trump. If only voters under the age of 34 voted, Trump would lose by almost 20%.
But millennials could also be responsible for handing the Presidency to Trump. Why? The 20% Clinton lead referred to earlier comes with an important caveat–it’s only true in a two way race between Trump and Clinton.
A whopping 44% of millennials opt for a third party candidate when given the option. And when they do, Clinton’s lead among that age group nosedives to just 5%. As you can see from the graph below, when 18-34 year olds are given the option to support a third party, those voters by and large draw from Clinton’s total.
While American Democracy doesn’t restrict franchise to the young, millennials are an important part of the electorate that’s driving Clinton’s recent weakness in the polls. Among all voters, Clinton has a 5% lead in a two way race but just 2% when 3rd party candidates are included. Most of that discrepancy is driven by young voters disproportionate preferences for a 3rd party candidate.
Obviously if you’re a 3rd party voter, you’re unsatisfied with the main dishes on offer in 2016. But there’s also a pretty good chance (according to polls) you prefer a Clinton presidency to Trump when forced to chose between the two. If you vote for a 3rd party, you aren’t making that preference heard.
In fact, it’s not even a vote that’s neutral between the two major party nominees. It’s a vote that actually helps Trump. Since 3rd party voters mostly prefer Clinton in a two way race, choosing a 3rd party helps Trump by disproportionately taking votes from Clinton.
Third party votes do express dissatisfaction with the major party nominees. But their actual effect is to help Trump. If votes were purely expressive, why bother having elections at all? A dictator could hold an election where his subjects express dissatisfaction with his rule, but that wouldn’t affect who’s in power. A third party vote does the same thing, expressing dissatisfaction without changing who’s in power.
Furthermore, progressives unsatisfied with Clinton have already expressed a lot of dissatisfaction in the primaries. Despite Clinton’s huge institutional advantages, Sanders came awfully close to winning the democratic nomination. And despite his loss, Clinton’s policies were pushed significantly leftward, culminating in “by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” according to Sanders himself.
There are a lot of ways to actually make change to America’s political system that are far superior to simply demonstrating anger. Our splintered political system means there are a huge amount of consequential elections outside the presidential race. Already, so called “Sanders Democrats” are challenging and winning against entrenched Democratic incumbents in primaries across the country. You can find local progressive challengers in your area on sandersdemocrats.org.
If there’s no one in your local area to vote for, (and even if there is) volunteering can have much more impact than one measly vote. Research shows that presidential campaigns increase turnout by as much as 7%–a huge, election deciding effect. In local or state level elections turnout is lower and voters are more persuadable. That means the impact of a little more campaigning (phone calls, door to door canvassing), in these elections is much higher than the presidential level. Just a few hours of canvassing can easily turn out many more votes than your own meseley total of one.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of ways to make change ways to make change in a political system you’re unsatisfied with. Voting for a third party isn’t one of them.
I’ll leave you with Sanders’ own words on the merits of a third party vote this election:
“This is not the time for a protest vote, in terms of a presidential campaign. I ran as a third-party candidate. I’m the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress. I know more about third-party politics than anyone else in the Congress, okay? And if people want to run as third-party candidates, God bless them! Run for Congress. Run for governor. Run for state legislature. When we’re talking about president of the United States, in my own personal view, this is not time for a protest vote. This is time to elect Hillary Clinton and then work after the election to mobilize millions of people to make sure she can be the most progressive president she can be.”