Washington D.C. - Donald Trump wasn’t Matthew Oberly’s first choice for republican nominee. An openly gay, 26-year-old Florida resident, Oberly originally supported former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, “he was my guy,” he said. But after Bush flamed out early in the primaries and every other candidate fell by the way side, Oberly is now firmly in Trump’s corner.
“I truly believe that our nominee today will be one of the greatest presidents we’ve had.”
Oberly is not the only millennial to support Donald Trump, but the contingent of young voters backing the candidate today is in the minority.
A recent poll conducted by USA Today and Rock the Vote found that only 20 percent of those 35 and younger polled said they’d vote for Trump in the fall, compared to 56 percent who would support Hillary Clinton.
The reasons for his fledging youth support are numerous. First of all, this younger generation is liberal. Of those polled in the USA Today study, only 20 percent identified as Republican. Secondly, it is the most diverse adult demographic in the U.S. in history, more than 44 percent are non-white according to Census data. Millennials are also more liberal than their parents on some important issues including gay rights and immigration and the Trump platform doesn’t currently offer any millennial or student specific policies, such as free college tuition.
Nevertheless, there remains a strong contingent of young republicans who do back Trump and their support for the candidate typically follows two lines of logic: a desire to support the conservative principles of a small government and a strong economy, and #NeverHillary. While Trump was not many of their first choices for candidate—they are committed to voting for him.
Trump’s young supporters frequently cite the economy for why they support his candidacy. It’s no secret that millennials grew up facing a down housing market and for many, debilitating student debt.
“I think the millennials didn’t really understand economics and went to colleges that were indoctrinated by left leaning professors,” said Rohit Joy, a 29-year-old Trump supporter from California who is a first generation American.
Joy first backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but now believes Trump is the best option because of his business prowess. “He’s a businessman. I think [republican] millennials are looking for something a little different. Not the same old career politicians we’ve had. I think that’s the reason why Trump will be better for millennials. It’s the whole package… It’s policies, it’s personality, it’s his whole approach to politics,” he said.
Concern about the economy is what attracted 21-year-old Alexander Kuppler to the Trump campaign.
“The issues that are most important to me are issues that aren’t social issues. They are fiscal issues and national security issues. They’re the things that matter in the 100 year plan, not the 10 year plan,” said Kuppler, who attended a Trump rally in Wilmington. “I think in this election, especially coming from the liberal left, we are too focused on social issues—things that will evolve naturally on their own over time.”
Twenty five year old Robert Gonsalas was a delegate for Puerto Rico at last month’s RNC. Although he originally backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, he said as a Hispanic voter the economy was also the main reason why he’s backing Trump.
“We support Hispanics by having good jobs, by having a great economy, by having free trade that will help people have a better way of living,” he said.
For other young voters, supporting Trump simply comes down to picking the lesser of what they consider to be two evils. Supporting Hillary Clinton is not an option.
“I don’t necessarily think he’s more trustworthy, but he goes along with what he says. And I don’t think she can really go by what she says as well as he can. I think he says the truth,” said Chloe Brown, a 21-year-old from from Jacksonville, NC.
Many of Trump’s young fans understand that they are outside their generation’s political preference and they, like many pundits, question whether millennials’ input will even ultimately matter this election. However, whether young voters turn out in droves for Trump or not, they still think he has a solid chance.
“I don’t think [Trump] actually needs to try to get the youth vote,” said Kuppler. “I don’t actually think many of the youth is going to come out and vote this year. The two candidates to the youth don’t look good. We see two old people who are corrupt or an asshole--for lack of better terms.”