Can Bernie Sanders Help Deliver the Youth Vote for Hillary Clinton?

It remains to be seen whether Sanders will be an effective Clinton surrogate.

ByMaryalice Parks and Ryan Struyk
September 21, 2016, 10:50 AM

— -- Neal West stood outside Bernie Sanders’ event at Kent State University on Saturday and asked people leaving to consider voting for the Green Party’s candidate, Jill Stein, though he knew full well that inside, the senator had repeated his call for his fans to vote for Clinton.

West said that he voted for Sanders in the primary and that, in his opinion, Stein was closer to Sanders than Clinton on the issues. As he passed out flyers, he rejected the key argument from Sanders that in a battleground state like Ohio, where polls have the two major candidates neck and neck, he should vote for Clinton to stave off a Trump win.

“If the Democratic Party had chosen a candidate that everybody would support, then there wouldn’t be an issue at all with Trump winning,” he said. Asked specifically if he worried about Trump winning, West went on: “That has nothing to do with me.”

It remains to be seen whether Bernie Sanders, the choice candidate on many college campuses during the primary season, will be an effective surrogate for Hillary Clinton, who urgently needs the student and millennial vote. While stumping for Clinton at two universities in Ohio over the weekend, Sanders spent minimal time making a case for Clinton, but instead focused his remarks on why voters should reject her opponent.

Sanders spoke passionately against Donald Trump. He accused the Republican Party nominee of rejecting science and trying to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency.

“You want to disagree with Obama? Disagree with Obama. But do not go around putting a lot of money into trying to tell the American people that because we have an African American who happens to be president today that he is not a legitimate president,” the senator said while speaking at Akron University. “That is an awful and divisive and terrible thing to do.”

But when talking about his former primary opponent, the Vermont senator primarily compared Clinton to Trump or listed ways in which she agrees with his own signature policy proposals on college affordability and health care.

“Hillary Clinton and I believe that the time is now to ask the wealthiest people and the largest corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes,” he said during his swing through the battleground state.

However, recent polling suggests that when it comes to winning the youth vote (a key demographic for President Obama) perhaps Clinton’s greatest challenge is not Trump, but other third-party candidates.

In the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 40 percent of adults under 30 years old backed Clinton in the general election -- a stark contrast from the 60 percent that Obama won in 2012. This is largely because one in three adults under 30 say they plan to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein -- or not vote at all.

But enthusiasm also matters: even months after the Democratic primary process wrapped up, 60 percent of Democratic adults under 30 say they wish that Bernie Sanders had won the nomination. In fact, only a quarter of them say they wanted Clinton to win the nod.

During a listening tour across the state of Ohio, ABC News found that college students were much quicker to bring up the third-party options.

Before hitting the campaign trail again, Sanders specifically urged his supporters not to back third-party candidates.

“Now is not the time to be supporting a protest vote,” he said during an interview on MSNBC. “Right now we have to make sure Trump does not become president and Clinton is the person to beat him.”

During a campaign stop at Temple University on Tuesday, Clinton appealed to students who may still have reservations about her.

“Even if you are totally opposed to Donald Trump you may still have some questions about me. I get that,” she said. “And I want to do my best to answer those questions.”

While speaking on campuses, both Clinton and Sanders emphasized getting to the polls. Sanders told students they should not just vote, but volunteer and get involved with politics.

“If we have a large voter turnout, for Secretary Clinton and Ted Strickland [the Democratic nominee for Senate in Ohio] here in Ohio and the entire nation will be very gratified for what you do," Sanders said.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events