Marijuana Could Be The Key To Clinton Millennial Outreach

As the presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump tightens, Clinton’s campaign has made a concerted effort to win the support of millennials. While Democrats might like to take young people’s votes for granted, polling shows that they shouldn’t.

A Quinnipiac survey released last week shows that just 31 percent of likely voters between the ages of 18 and 34 are in Clinton’s corner. While that’s five percentage points higher than the demographic’s support for Trump, the poll shows a huge share of youth support going to third party candidates: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party nets 29 percent of the millennial vote and Jill Stein of the Green Party gets 15 percent.

And comparing the firm’s new results to a similar survey it did last month shows that young people’s support for Clinton is trending downward. In August, 48 percent backed her candidacy.

The sudden drop has led to a number of alarmist headlines like:

“Millennial Voters May Cost Hillary Clinton the Election” — The Atlantic

“Clinton Losing Millennial Support Nationally and in Key States” — NBC News

“Clinton’s real millennial problem: young Americans are less loyal to Democrats” — Vox

With less than seven weeks to go until Election Day, what can Clinton do to stop the bleeding and re-attract some wayward young voters back from third party candidates?

In a word: Marijuana.

To be clear, no one is suggesting it’s necessary for alleged lifelong abstainer Clinton to suddenly take up cannabis consumption, but issuing a full-throated endorsement for the drug’s legalization would likely convince a not-insubstantial number of young people currently supporting ardently anti-prohibition Johnson or Stein to seriously consider checking the Democratic box on November 8.

Polls repeatedly show that young people overwhelmingly support legalizing marijuana:

A Gallup poll found 71 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds back legalization.

An NBC News survey reported that legalization support leads by a 49 percentage point margin among Americans aged 18 to 34.

A CNN poll put the demographic’s support for legalization at 67 percent.

A Pew survey showed 68 percent of millennials on board — including a huge majority of Republicans in the age group: 63 percent. Among young Democrats, the firm put the number at 77 percent.

Right now the only presidential candidates speaking for this demographic on marijuana legalization don’t have a D or R next to their names. Johnson and Stein have made support for legalizing cannabis centerpieces of their campaigns, and the issue is likely a major reason why so many young people are flocking to them instead of to the two major parties.

While Clinton says she supports the right of states to enact their own marijuana policies without federal interference and has pledged to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, she says she’s just not personally sure if legalization is a good idea. While she’s spoken in favor of medical cannabis, Clinton has refused to clearly answer questions about how she would decide on full legalization if it were on the ballot in the state where she votes.

Trump, for his part, says he supports medical marijuana “100 percent” and has repeatedly pledged to respect state laws even though he personally opposes full legalization. But he has shown himself to be malleable on many issues, often changing his mind, and many marijuana policy observers fear that if anti-cannabis New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is named his attorney general, the federal government could enact a full-scale reversal of the relative latitude the Obama administration has given to states to implement their own marijuana laws without interference.

With the election so close, there’s not much time for Clinton to make bold shifts in positions on economic policy, national security or war, which could also help attract support from disaffected young people.

But it would not be at all difficult for her to say something like:

“You know what, I’ve taken a closer look at Colorado and Washington and Oregon over the last few months, and I’m really impressed with how marijuana legalization is working out there. I think more states should do that.”

That would put her squarely in line with where Sen. Bernie Sanders, her onetime chief rival for the Democratic nomination, was during the course of a candidacy that electrified young people and brought them out to rallies in droves.

Some Democrats may fear that even if endorsing legalization would win Clinton votes from the younger crowd, baby boomers or those in the so-called “greatest generation” would be turned off, possibly sending their support to Trump.

But a Quinnipiac poll of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — among the most important key swing states in the presidential race — shows that legalizing marijuana enjoys much higher approval from voters than either presidential candidate does.

All the data seems to indicate that endorsing marijuana legalization before Election Day would be a net gain for Hillary Clinton, one which she badly needs in order to help ensure a victory.

To see what Clinton and Trump have said about cannabis law reform, check out’s comprehensive guide to the candidates.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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