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Young voters don't care about Hillary Clinton's age

Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor,

Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, holds hands with Hillary Rodham Clinton as she appears with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the "Women for Cuomo" event at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run for president, would be among the oldest contenders for the office. Nonetheless, she has strong appeal among younger Americans.

The former secretary of state, who will be 69 on Election Day 2016, beats five of her most prominent possible Republican rivals among voters 18-to-29, in some cases by as much as a 2- to-1 margin, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll. Senator Rand Paul runs strongest against her among these voters, though he still loses by a 3-to-2 margin.

Younger people, perhaps not surprisingly, say the most important quality for a presidential candidate is a vision for the future. On this question, Clinton routs her Republican rivals among younger Americans. They prefer her to Mitt Romney, for example, by 56 percent to 36 percent.

Romney is seven months older than Clinton. The other possible Republican candidates -- Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz -- are five to more than 20 years younger.

Age hasn't emerged as a significant impediment to winning the youth vote in presidential contests.

"There is little reason to believe that younger people prefer young candidates," says Peter Levine, a professor at Tufts University's Center on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Young voters have been more dependably Democratic in recent elections. In the last presidential race, Barack Obama won 60 percent of 18- to29-year-olds, according to Election Day exit polls.

Republicans did slightly better in the November midterm congressional contests, when they lost the youth vote 54 percent to 43 percent.

Some caveats: At this early stage of the presidential election cycle, younger Americans tend to be a little less informed and potentially more prone to switching allegiances. And turnout is uncertain: voters under 30 comprised 19 percent of the electorate in the last presidential race. In November, they accounted for just 13 percent. In this year's exit polls, Hillary Clinton didn't do as well as she does in the Bloomberg politics survey.

Still, her standing with 18-to-29 year olds is impressive. She is viewed favorably by this cohort by better than a 3-to-2 margin, considerably better than her standing among people 30 or older.

Similarly, her greatest advantage in head-to-head matchups and on the vision issue is with those under 30. On a vision for the future, the Republican who comes closest is Paul, a libertarian who has appealed to younger voters on privacy and other issues. He still ranks 15 points behind Clinton.

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg columnist.


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