Donald Trump is, in turns, an angry bomb-dropper, an emotional reactionary and an embarrassing jokester. Hillary Clinton is offensive and out of touch to some, and a return to the prosperity of the 1990’s to others.
Those are some of the findings of a new focus groups of millennials commissioned by The HLN Millennials Project. HLN is a sister network of CNN. The project interviewed groups of likely voters without strong party allegiances aged between 18 and 34 – 10 who lean toward the Republican Party and 10 who lean toward the Democratic Party – in three swing-state cities: Columbus, Ohio, Orlando, Florida and Denver, Colorado.
Much of the discussion was not about presidential candidates, though. For example, there is the finding that most of these people on both sides think the top issues are jobs, education and health care – not terrorism, guns, abortion, immigration, environment or other issues that have been more prevalent in debates and news coverage. Their top focus was lack of opportunity.
The interviews reveal that these younger Americans are awaiting a Republican candidate to take on Trump, who leads all national and early state polls, and are enamored with Bernie Sanders, who is mounting a surprisingly successful campaign against Clinton.
The results of the six focus groups, conducted from September 21 to 24 by Meeting Street Research, cannot be projected nationally, but the findings do reflect themes that interviewers say they heard over multiple sessions.
Republican-leaning millennials described Trump in unflattering terms.
“I feel like he gets angry, and he would just drop a bomb somewhere and get us all killed,” said one Ohio Republican.
Democrats, meanwhile, called him a “joke” and “too emotional.”
Millennials had kinder words for candidates like Carly Fiorina (“formidable” in the eyes of a Republican, “eloquent” in those of a Democrat) and Marco Rubio, who is emphasizing his youth in his GOP bid.
The Democrats surveyed voiced discomfort with Clinton, with some Democratic and Republican voters pointing to verbal missteps or scandals that have surrounded her candidacy.
“There’s a lot of money behind her. She’s all for women’s health and women’s equality, but at the same time she’s taking ‘donations’ from countries that treat women horribly. It’s just the hypocrisy that bothers me,” said one Ohio Democrat, referring to the Clinton Foundation’s contributions from foreign countries.
“Previously I would have said Hillary would be my ideal candidate because of what she and Bill did in the ‘90’s,” said one Colorado Democratic millennial. “But I think with the recent scandals like Benghazi, email server, and donor lists, it kind of casts her in a shadow of doubt. It’s unfortunate.”
The voters had much kinder words for Sanders, the Vermont insurgent who promises a “political revolution.”
“I love him; he’s inspired me to believe in politics once again. He’s the JFK of our day coming with logic and practicality on the issues,” said another Colorado Democrat.