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Election Results Provide New Insight Into Millennial Voters


Turnout was a problem for younger voters in Pennsylvania, but what about the rest of the country? NPR's Asma Khalid covers demographics and joins me now. Hey there.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hey, how are you?

CORNISH: So how many millennials actually turned out for this election?

KHALID: So estimates show that about 24 million people under the age of 29 voted on Tuesday. We won't know for sure sort of what percent of eligible millennials voted - so that turnout rate - until we see census numbers. That's where that number usually comes from.

But, Audie, is one major sign that turnout probably decreased, and that's that, you know, the millennial's share of the electorate ought to be growing because we have more and more 18-year-olds - just folks turning 18 and being eligible to vote.

But we saw in a number of battleground states that the millennial share actually decrease - the millennial share of the electorate - from 2016 to 2012. And in a state like Arizona, that was key. You saw the millennial share drop from 26 percent down to 15 percent this year, meaning that probably not as many of them showed up.

CORNISH: Now, Barack Obama won the majority of that vote in the last election. So tell us what the deal was with Hillary Clinton.

KHALID: So she did win you could say a majority of millennial voters as well, but there was not that same level of enthusiasm and support. And that was a problem for her. You know, both I should say Donald Trump and Mitt Romney did equally poorly with millennial voters, so I don't want to sort of dismiss the fact that he was not popular. They both got about 37 percent of voters under the age of 29.

The problem, though, for Hillary Clinton is that she did underperform Barack Obama. And I was looking at a state-by-state breakdown in all of the battleground states. And I would say she did remarkably worse in some very important battleground states. You know, I think there was this assumption maybe that Katy Perry or Beyonce could kind of pull out the vote in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania. But if you look at a state like Florida, Hillary Clinton won young voters, and her margin of victory, though, was nowhere near as big as Obama's. It was 16 percentage points less than President Obama's.

CORNISH: Another question going into this election was whether younger voters might go for third party candidates. What do you know about that?

KHALID: So about eight percent of voters nationally did choose a third party candidate - either the Libertarian, Gary Johnson, or the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. In some battleground states, that number was much, much higher. In Colorado, it was 20 percent. In Arizona, it was 15 percent.

And, Audie, one thing I will say - and we were just talking about is upstairs. Like, maybe some of this is - I think as journalists, we did hear some of these young voters who were very frustrated with Hillary Clinton who felt that, you know, that she was a fraud, that she was too cozy with Wall Street. They would tell us that she was - her foreign policy was too hawkish. But I don't know that, even myself included, we sort of fundamentally understood how angry and upset some of these younger voters were with Hillary Clinton.

CORNISH: Now, you've said that millennials are the largest age group, actually outnumbering baby boomers at this point, but how much voting power do they really have? I mean could they have swung the states you're talking about in this election?

KHALID: So, Audie, I always think that these stats about millennials are so interesting because, yes, they could, you know? And they do have a lot of power to fundamentally alter, you could say, the scope of the entire country on Tuesday if they had voted. And that's a big question mark - is if they voted.

I think on Tuesday we saw that some millennials also fundamentally altered the state of the election by not showing up. And I say that partly because if we look at a state like Wisconsin, Donald Trump won that state by about 27,000 votes. If you look at how millennials voted compared to 2016 to 2012, the overall share went down, and so did the margin of victory. Hillary Clinton barely won millennials in Wisconsin. Her margin of victory was 20 points less than President Obama, and we saw a very similar story in Pennsylvania as well.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Asma Khalid Thanks so much.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.