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Harvard Poll: Millennials Yearn For Bernie, But Prefer Clinton To Trump

Young people display their Bernie Sanders support as they gather before Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally, earlier this month in New York.

Republicans are losing ground when it comes to attracting young voters while, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is the only one of the five major presidential hopefuls remaining who has a net positive favorability rating from young Americans.

Those are just two of the findings in a new survey of American adults under 30 years old by Harvard's Institute of Politics.

When it comes to the 2016 presidential contest, 61 percent of 18-to-29 year olds prefer a Democrat to win the White House in the fall, while a third of those surveyed back a Republican. That gap of 28 percentage points has nearly doubled since a similar poll conducted last year, when the difference was just 15 percentage points.

In a hypothetical head-to-head contest among likely voters, Democrat Hillary Clinton trounces Donald Trump, 61 percent to 25 percent — a 36-point margin. Of those likely voters surveyed, 14 percent said they were undecided.

The poll found that millennials largely reject the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump. He has the highest negative ratings of any of the candidates surveyed, with 74 percent unfavorable compared with 17 percent who have a favorable view of the billionaire businessman. When only looking at millennials who identify as Republican, Trump's numbers remain 20 points underwater in terms of favorability (37 percent positive to 57 percent negative).

Trump's GOP rivals by comparison, are viewed positively by the young Republicans polled: 39 percent favorable, 27 percent unfavorable for Ohio Gov. John Kasich; 56 percent favorable, 30 percent unfavorable for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Clinton's favorability overall is minus 16 percentage points (37 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable), but among young Democrats she has garnered a favorability more than double her unfavorable rating (65 percent to 30 percent).

Perhaps not a surprise given his ability to draw large, predominately young crowds to rallies, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is by far the most popular of the five presidential candidates tested in the Harvard poll. In fact, with 54 percent viewing him positively and just 31 percent having a negative view, he's the only candidate in the survey who has a net-positive favorability number.

"I think what's striking about this is, when we look at among the young voters who view Bernie Sanders very favorably, Clinton actually has 80 percent of that vote," John Della Volpe, the director of the Harvard Institute of Politics poll, told reporters in a conference call Monday.

By contrast, Donald Trump is supported by those who rate Cruz and Kasich "very favorably" at 69 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

"Clinton seems to be doing a better job coalescing young Democrats, while Donald Trump has had trouble coalescing young people on the right," Della Volpe said.

Almost two-thirds of those polled believed men had advantages over women in U.S. society. On the question of which of the presidential candidates would do the most to address that, both Clinton and Sanders far outpaced the GOP candidates — but men favored Clinton by nine percentage points, while women favored Sanders by four percentage points.

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