By Ashley Lopez, Alejandra Martinez, Rachael Pikulski and Faith Ann Ruszkowski
Donald Trump is not winning the millennial vote.
Among young Republicans, his support only reaches 24 percent, according to a USA Today poll. His total support from millennials as a whole is even lower. A study published in December from Monmouth College in Illinois said only 17.5 percent of millennials view Trump favorably.
Yet Donald Trump has won primaries in 18 states based on pluralities. So far he has racked up 752 of the 1,237 total delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination, surpassing his closest Republican competitor, Ted Cruz, by over 250 delegates. The numbers show voters are supporting Trump and inevitably some of those voters are millennials.
Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a University of Texas at Austin government professor, said that small numbers of younger generations are voting for Trump not because they “necessarily keep up with the issues, but because they like the persona and the charisma behind [him].”
But these millennials, attracted to Trump’s persona and often vocal in their support for “the Donald” on social media, are surprisingly unwilling to talk about their political positions in person.
Moderators for Millennials for Trump, a Facebook group with over 18,000 likes, declined to speak because they believed doing so would “accomplish nothing.” Despite their resistance to talking, they publicly post content to their page on an hourly basis.
A Twitter page titled Millennials 4 Trump (@All4Trump) also would not respond to requests for interviews.
Attempts to contact Trump’s Texas campaign to discuss millennial involvement in this election cycle were unfruitful as well. Calling the Austin-based phone number provided on Trump’s website for the Texas campaign results in a constant busy signal, while the address for Trump’s Texas headquarters is merely a private mailbox at the UPS Store on Brazos Street. Trump Communications Director Hope Hicks and Houston Director for the Trump Campaign Kayla Hensley did not respond to information requests.
At the University of Texas at Austin, widely considered a liberal institution, students who support Trump are not highly visible or very outspoken. But that does not mean they do not exist, said Eric Saldanha, a business honors sophomore and faculty relations chair for the Undergraduate Business Council.
“About two-thirds of McCombs [the business school], in my estimation, is conservative and the rest is liberal or undecided,” said Saldana, who hosted an event on campus called “Debunking Trump” on March 29.
“Among the two-thirds that are conservative, I don’t think many would publicly say they are supporting Trump’s nomination. The friends I have are a little bit more outspoken, so I would say that about half of my friends that are conservative are beginning to use language that accepts Donald Trump as the nominee.”
However out of the several millennial Trump supporters from UT that were contacted for this story only one was willing to speak on the record.
Why won’t millennials openly speak about their support for Trump?
“People see [Trump] on TV and paint him as being a racist, which he is not,” said Christian Moran, a junior history and government major and Trump supporter.
“A lot of people have a huge misconception of him. And so when you say you’re voting for Trump, everyone assumes you’re like a Nazi or something like that, when it’s really not. If you just get all of the commotion away and all the hype … and you just look at what he is trying to do – it just makes sense.”
Government junior Corbin Haverlah, who considers himself a Republican but not a Trump supporter, has several friends who have voted for Trump in the Texas primary. Haverlah said his friends do not necessarily agree with everything that Trump has said but they still agree with his policies.
“As soon as someone says they support Trump, others are quick [to] lump that person’s beliefs with everything ridiculous thing Trump has ever mentioned,” said Haverlah. “But that is not necessarily the case. Almost no one agrees completely with the candidate they support. No one expects that Bernie or Hillary supporters defend everything they’ve ever said, but they do with Trump supporters.”
Eric Saldanha believes that others are quick to judge Trump supporters because of the emotional reaction they have to Trump’s words. This judgement makes Trump supports wary of airing their views.
“There’s a stigma that the Donald Trump supporter takes on, at least on our campus I think, because so many people on our campus are against Trump’s candidacy and the reasons they are against him are pretty powerful,” said Saldana. “The reasons have to do with racism, the reasons have to do with social and economic justice… Because so many people are so vociferously against Trump on campus, it is much harder to publicly come out in support of him, whereas Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, any of these moderate [former] candidates would be palatable to their friends.”
Why some UT students are supporting Trump
Despite widespread opposition to Trump on campus, Christian Moran says he is does not feel pressure to change his political views.
“There are obviously people that disagree with me strongly and I combat them as best as I can but I’ve never second guessed [myself] or anything like that,” said Moran. “I like what he is doing.”
For Moran and other millennial Trump supporters, a large part of their support is derived from the attitude Trump brings to the campaign trail. The often echoed statements among Trump supporters are that they like “like his frankness,” and his ability to put aside “political correctness.”
“The main reason I am voting for Donald Trump is because basically I like how he is an offshoot from the norm,” said Moran. “He’s not your normal establishment politician…Donald Trump, he already has everything a man could ask for. He’s got nothing to gain from this besides actually wanting to do it. Besides that I like all of his policies and things like that. I like how he isn’t really taking any lip from anyone. He’s got guts.”
The notion that Donald Trump is funding his own campaign also draws a great deal of support from millennials.
Eric Saldanha believes that among his friends in the business school “the idea that Donald Trump is self-funding, the idea that he isn’t bought by special interests is pretty appealing to people and I would say that is the foremost reason [they are supporting Trump].” Even though Saldanha notes Donald Trump has put less than a million dollars into his campaign and most of it has been loaned.
For Moran, Donald Trump’s increasing success in accumulating delegates is seen as sign that the Republican party will inevitably have to change.
“He’s rewriting the political playbook and he’s going to win the nomination,” said Moran. “ And if he doesn’t, I’m pretty sure he is going to split off and there might possibly be a third American party that comes out of this whole election if he is not chosen as the Republican nominee.”