The millennial vote

Camels behind Students for Trump movement had an impact on the 2016 presidential election

By Billy Liggett

Few saw the results of Nov. 8, 2016, coming. Donald Trump’s decisive Election Day win shocked even the most optimistic conservative pundits — his victory coming after months of speculation that Hillary Clinton had the presidency in the bag.

Yet there were Campbell juniors Ryan Fournier and John Lambert the night before — their faces appearing briefly on TV in a primetime NBC News report on the impact the millennial vote could have the following day — declaring with utmost confidence that the next four years would be Trump’s.

“I see Donald Trump reviving the Republican Party,” said Lambert, seated next to Fournier across from NBC reporter Jacob Rascon. “Trump is bringing voters to this party. And at the end of the day, when you tally it all together, the party will be strengthened. It’ll be healthier.”

Despite what the media had been telling him and his fellow millennials for the past year — even Rascon followed the statement with questions about the GOP’s next step “if they lose” — Lambert and Fournier were right. And that confidence helped fuel their Students for Trump organization in 2016.

Whether you were a red hat-wearing Trump backer or an “I’m With Her” Clinton supporter, it’s hard not to be impressed with the duo’s success.

Created in 2015 when Fournier adopted the
@students_trump handle on Twitter so he could help the then-underdog GOP candidate reach younger voters, Students for Trump grew to a few thousand followers within weeks and peaked at more than 46,000 followers by Election Day. The organization, which also had 14,000-plus likes on Facebook, grew to nearly 300 chapters on campuses across the country and nearly 5,000 student volunteers.

Time. Fox News. The Los Angeles Times. Yahoo! News. The Chronicle for Higher Education. They all wanted quotes and soundbites from the two as Trump grew from entertaining outsider to serious candidate and eventually the GOP nominee. According to Fournier, those media outlets wanted to hear what millennials — young adults born in the 90s and early 2000s — had to say about the election because young people played a big role in Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 and his reelection.

The millennial vote did matter for Trump, who picked up roughly the same number of young voters as Mitt Romney in 2012. Clinton, on the other hand, significantly underperformed with millennials compared to Obama, picking up just 56 percent of the vote among those aged 18-24 and 53 percent of those aged 25-29, compared to 66 percent by Obama in both age groups in 2008.

In short, Trump held steady in a year when his opponent had difficulty connecting with millennials. “The career politician isn’t trusted anymore in Washington,” Lambert said. “We’ve seen this unfold since the midterm elections. Americans do not believe career politicians are listening to them. This is why Trump will have success.”

Photo: By BillyLiggett