Republican Donald Trump has performed poorly in polling among young voters, but a comprehensive survey released Thursday suggests he is dominating Democrat Hillary Clinton among high school students.
The survey of high school students across the country, a joint project of My College Options and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, indicates that members of the so-called Generation Z have markedly different political views than the slightly older, famously left-leaning millennials.
“Our findings shocked us and clearly state that the Trump effect was not only felt by adults and can have an impact going forward with Generation Z.”
Among those old enough to vote for the first time in next month’s election, Trump leads Clinton 46 percent to 31 percent. Another 11 percent picked a third-party candidate, while 6 percent said they would write in a candidate. Some 54,000 students in 47 states have filled out paper ballots distributed in schools, and organizers said they expect a total of 100,000 by the time they finish polling.
“Our findings shocked us and clearly state that the Trump effect was not only felt by adults and can have an impact going forward with Generation Z,” Hispanic Heritage Foundation President Jose Antonio Tijerino said in a prepared statement. “It’s also an important message that youth can’t be taken for granted as to how they lean politically by either side of the aisle.”
The first-time voters are an overwhelmingly pessimistic lot — just 11 percent say the country is moving in a positive direction, while 56 percent disagreed. Their top issue is the economy, followed by education, gun rights, and health care.
Trump also was the top choice of the entire group, ages 14 through 18. He won support from 34 percent, compared with 20 percent of Clinton. Third-party and write-in candidates got 13 percent, while nearly a third said they would not vote if they had the chance. While Trump struggles mightily with female voters in the electorate, among high school respondents, Trump leads with both genders.
Broken down by state, Trump was the top choice of youth in 31 states. Clinton was first in only one — Louisiana. In the rest of the states surveyed, the top choice was “I would choose not to vote in this election.”
As with older voters, Clinton is the overwhelming choice of minorities. Black students pick her over Trump by a 40-point margin, and she beats him by 19 points among Hispanics. But black and Hispanic students are also far more likely than white students to indicate they would not vote if given the choice.
Both minority groups also believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. Just 8 percent said it was positive. Hispanic students picked education as their top issue, while African-Americans were more likely to identify racism as a top issue.
The survey offers good news for Republicans, who have become accustomed to losing the youth vote by wide margins. If the attitudes of this year hold, it could give the GOP a boost in the 2020 election, when all of the participants will be eligible to vote. It also could call into question predictions that the GOP is doomed as the nation grows more diverse and younger people rise to voting age.
Officials at My College Options, which offers college counseling services to high school students, said the large number of participants make the survey unusually reliable. It claims a margin of error of just .6 percent.
“With unparalleled access to our nation’s youth, we at My College Options believe it is our obligation to amplify their voices on issues that are so critical to our future,” the organization’s vice president, Ryan Munce, said in a prepared statement.