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Why Millennials Can’t Get Apathetic About Politics, According to Chuck Todd

This election has been demoralizing for young women for a lot of reasons, and Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd gets that. With the constant insults, attacks and bigotry that have defined the 2016 campaign, it’s easy to feel like we may never achieve the better world we want. But after election day on Tuesday, we’ll be in the same country we always have been—and we’ll have to keep working hard toward change. Her Campus talked to Todd, who’s also the NBC political director, about why our voting bloc matters, how much Hillary Clinton might stick to her promises in the White House, and why college women need to stay involved in politics.


Her Campus: As I’m sure you know, Her Campus is a publication for college women. They are part of two important groups in this election: they’re millennials, and they’re also women. How do you think that group in particular could impact this election?

Chuck Todd: I’m not going to merge, I’m going to separate the two voting groups here. Look, I think millennials that vote are going go for Clinton in a big number. The question, of course, is how big is millennial turnout? I don’t think it’s going to match Barack Obama’s turnout. Even if the margin for Clinton over Trump is greater, it’s possible, but if the turnout of millennials is stagnant, that could cost her. For instance, North Carolina. Their millennial turnout is of utmost importance, and it’s the recipe for Democrats to win there.

But there is a larger millennial apathy, I think, towards the campaign, and I understand it. I mean, this is a dispiriting campaign, number one. Number two, I think Washington and the political establishment, if you want to call it that, has so turned millennials off from the idea that politics is a calling, even. My concern is that we’re seeing a lack of millennial engagement in politics. Even as millennials are driving social justice change in this country, arguably. One of the most successful political movements of the last 10 years is Black Lives Matter, and I’d argue that that’s millennial driven. Yet millennials look at Washington and think, “Nothing gets done there. I can affect change in so many other ways that I don’t need to go to Washington.” That’s a long-term problem. We need new blood in Washington. We need innovation. We need a lot of things that millennials bring. We need a little of that impatience millennials bring, and get criticized for—that I kind of think is a good thing in Washington. I’m losing hope in millennial engagement not only in this election but in the idea that millennials don’t think Washington is a place to solve problems.

Now on the women’s vote, I think as we see these polls tighten and as we see Hillary Clinton struggle a little bit at the end, I think the reason her lead is insurmountable is because of the support she has gotten from women. What’s interesting here, though, is that I think two years ago there was this excitement about the first woman president, and that should drive up the share of the women’s vote that Hillary Clinton gets in this election. But I think this increase in women’s support that she’s getting is less about her being the first woman president and more about an anti-Trump vote. You’re seeing women come to the early vote in droves in North Carolina. I think Republican women—college-educated Republican women, essentially—are going to make up, for instance in lack of enthusiasm among African-American voters. And their crossover voting for Clinton is going to be a big reason why she survives.

Her Campus: I’m interested in what you’ve said about millennials being turned off by this election. We’ve definitely seen that through surveying we’ve done. And our readers of course loved Bernie Sanders when he was in the race. And there was a lot of talk about how Bernie Sanders pushed Clinton to the left. Do you think there’s hope for them that once she gets into the White House, she’ll stay as far to the left as she’s been talking about?

Chuck Todd: That’s certainly an interesting dynamic that I’m going to be following, because one of the things I like to say is that Hillary Clinton won the nomination, but Bernie Sanders won the campaign. It’s the Bernie Sanders platform that, essentially, the Democratic party put out. With WikiLeaks, one thing we’ve learned from this is, what would it take for them to be more progressive? What would it take for them to be more credible with progressives as well as millennials? There is no doubt that she has been reactive to what has been a new energy inside the progressive movement of the Democratic party. I do think she is going to feel political pressure on the left. If I’m her, I think one way to prove my bona fide with progressives and millennials is what she chooses to pursue first in that first year and that first six months. If she has any honeymoon at all—and I’m doubtful she has any political honeymoon, considering how this race is ending—but does she make college affordability a first-year issue? What a president makes their first-year issues tells you a lot about the constituency groups they’re paying the most attention to. So I would imagine that immigration and college debt, college affordability, if those aren’t her top two issues, then she’s not paying attention to the two constituency groups that arguably got her into the White House.

Her Campus: Absolutely. I think our readers are super interested in what happens with college affordability, and that was a big reason they loved Sanders when he was running.

Chuck Todd: Right. Well, she wouldn’t have topped Sanders’ plan, but she went a lot farther in her own plan than she would’ve without Sanders being in the race.

Her Campus: Definitely. Finally, there are so many polls, and it’s so much to keep track of. It gets pretty confusing, especially for those voting for the first time. Now that we’re so close, which polling information should we really be paying attention to, and what are those polls saying do you think?

Chuck Todd: Look, I’m a big poll junkie and a big poll critic. I will just tell you that I will say this—not just because I work at NBC, but we work hard to make sure we’re using the smartest technology that we have, that we’re using the best pollsters. We use a team of people who are actually professional pollsters for the two parties, and the reason for that I always say is that they don’t get paid if they get it wrong. You know? Some of these pollsters just get paid to get a headline. So I do think you want that kind of accountability in your pollster, and who a media organization chooses as their pollster [is important]. I can just tell you, that’s why I don’t like poll averaging sites; I know others do. I don’t really read FiveThirtyEight and stuff like that. I know which polls that I trust. Some of them are ours, and in certain states it’s others. So I do cherry pick, and I can just tell you generally we’re seeing this race tighten, but Clinton still has advantages over Trump that make her the favorite.

Be sure to watch NBC Tuesday night for election coverage, where Todd will be co-anchoring “Decision Night in America” starting at 7 p.m. Eastern.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Katherine Mirani is the News Editor for Her Campus. She graduated from Northwestern University's journalism school in 2015. Before joining Her Campus full time, she worked on investigative stories for Medill Watchdog and the Scripps News Washington Bureau. When not obsessing over journalism, Katherine enjoys pasta, ridiculous action movies, #longreads, and her cockatiel, Oreo.
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