Public opinion polling can seem overly serious unless you ask some questions to mix things up. Like the UMass Lowell survey of the preferences of Millennials in the 2016 presidential election.
Twenty-five percent of youthful respondents said they would rather see a giant meteor strike earth than witness either Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton win the White House. Another 26 percent preferred a random lottery to pick a president. Forty percent wished President Obama would declare himself president for life.
The national survey was conducted between October 10-13 and interviewed a random sample of 1,247 adults ranging in age from 18 to 35. Final results were weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies based on age, gender, race, education and region.
The poll wasn’t all playful. There also were serious questions and some surprising answers. For example, Millennial respondents favored Clinton over Trump by a 3-to-1 margin. Not a surprise. But it was surprising that 41 percent of respondents said immigration should be curtailed, while 30 percent said it should be increased.
Not surprisingly, 58 percent of Millennials want to see recreational marijuana use legalized. Somewhat surprisingly, Millennials give GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence about the same level of support as they do Trump.
The biggest trend takeaway is the precipitous drop ins Millennials who identify with the Republican Party. According to Joshua Dyck, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, Millennials have been abandoning the GOP in droves since 2008.
“In the 2004 election, you voters were closely divided: Democrat John Kerry won 18 to 29 year olds by 11 points,” Dyck said. “The nomination of Donald Trump appears only to have made things worse for Republicans” as only one in four Millennials now identify themselves as Republicans.
“Since party identification is something that people tend to carry with them throughout their lives,” Dyck added, “the GOP is not just digging a hole in this election, but setting the stage for further losses as Millennials get older and a bigger part of the electorate.”
For now, enthusiasm among this age for either Clinton or Trump is waning, which could make the election closer than anticipated. What isn’t waning, however, is Millennial humor. How else to explain preferring a life-extinguishing meteor attack over either major party presidential candidate.
Last summer, The Washington Post carried a story suggesting Millennials regarded the presidential choice this year as a joke. One University of Wisconsin student said the election seemed more like a prank than an audition for the most powerful job on earth.