US Elections 2016: Meet the American voter

Less white, well-read, younger and pro-Clinton

Mrs Clinton taking a wefie during a rally on Sept 29 in Des Moines, Iowa. A win at the ballot box for her will boil down to voter turnout, say experts.
Mrs Clinton taking a wefie during a rally on Sept 29 in Des Moines, Iowa. A win at the ballot box for her will boil down to voter turnout, say experts.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

In the second of a three-part series, The Straits Times profiles the Democrat voters who will decide the 2016 election

Democrats in the United States have rallied behind their party nominee, Mrs Hillary Clinton, for many reasons: Some are excited by the thought of having a female president in the United States, some are sold on her years of experience, while others are just determined to prevent her rival, Mr Donald Trump, from becoming president.

Mr Lou Lesesne is one of them. He is concerned about the economy and security situation but most bothered about the Republican nominee, Mr Trump, himself.

"It would be a disaster for this country if he were to be elected," said the 71-year-old Vietnam war veteran who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and believes Mr Trump is out of his depth when it comes to government.

Mrs Clinton, he says, will be the better candidate to solve issues of national security, the economy and particularly race relations. "I've always voted Democrat, always will," he added.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation's revived investigation into Mrs Clinton's e-mails may have dampened support for the former secretary of state, experts say the effect might be muted due to early voting.

 

A recent ABC/Washington Post poll still shows that Mrs Clinton has 87 per cent support among Democrats, down from a high of 90 per cent. In comparison, Mr Trump's support among Republicans is at a high of 89 per cent, up from a low of 82 per cent.

As the US becomes increasingly diverse, so does the make-up of the Democratic Party. "The Democratic Party is becoming less white, less religious and better-educated at a faster rate than the country as a whole while ageing at a slower rate," said a study by the Pew Research Centre.

African American and Latino voters, who carried President Barack Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012, form a large part of the party base. According to Pew, 21 per cent of those who identify as Democrats or lean towards Democrat are African Americans, up from just 17 per cent in 1992. Hispanics form 12 per cent of this group, up from 6 per cent.

"Since the 1960s and the Lyndon Johnson administration, the Democratic Party nationally and in most states has become the party of liberation and equality... The Democrats have made conscious efforts to extend their outreach to Latinos based on civil rights arguments," said Professor Mack Shelley, chair of the department of political science at Iowa State University.

LESS EXPERIENCED

It would be a disaster for this country if he were to be elected.

MR LOU LESESNE, a 71-year-old Vietnam war veteran who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and believes Mr Trump is out of his depth when it comes to government.

The Democrats have also held a consistent advantage among women in Pew surveys dating to 1992, and are increasingly attracting the college-educated segment of the population.

Young voters also remain overwhelmingly Democratic in their party affiliation, with about six in 10 of those younger than 30 years old identifying as Democrat or leaning Democrat, according to Pew.

While young voters were drawn to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during the primaries, Associate Professor Melissa Miller, a political scientist from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said: "When faced with a choice between Clinton and Trump... young voters have clearly begun to shift towards Clinton."

 

The ground game of the Clinton campaign in college campuses, Mr Sanders' endorsement of Mrs Clinton and the sexual assault allegations faced by Mr Trump are all factors that lead to Mrs Clinton's support among young voters, said Dr Miller.

When it comes to the issues, a July report by Pew shows the top five concerns of Democrats are the economy, treatment of minorities, healthcare, terrorism and gun policy.

Democrats are also more likely than Republicans to say that the environment and treatment of gays, lesbians and transgender people are important to their vote.

While some voters might shy away from Mrs Clinton due to recent news developments such as the hacked e-mails from her campaign manager's account and the FBI's probe, experts believe a win for Mrs Clinton will largely still boil down to voter turnout.

"High turnout among women, young voters and minority voters can deliver the election to Hillary Clinton...The big question is whether they are sufficiently enthusiastic to turn out and support a candidate who is considerably less popular than Obama was at this point in each of his election campaigns," said Dr Miller.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Less white, well-read, younger and pro-Clinton'. Print Edition | Subscribe