The Democratic Party has a millennial problem.
This election cycle, the "party of the young" has had trouble winning over its signature constituents. As Vox’s Jeff Stein recently wrote, "Millennials backed Bernie Sanders in unprecedented numbers during the presidential primary ... now the kids are flirting with third-party presidential candidates instead of getting behind [Hillary] Clinton." The latest polls show that more than of 40 percent of young voters intend to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein instead.
But this turn of events goes beyond partisan politics and into the underbelly of institutional distrust.
In a new report, "The Millennial Economy," Ernst & Young and the Economic Innovation Group polled 1,200 American millennials (ages 18 to 34) and found that millennials no longer have confidence in some foundational elements of the establishment.
Some institutions fare decently: 55 percent of millennials have confidence in the military and 51 percent in colleges and universities.
From there, though, the outlook is dismal.
Millennials — many of whom entered the workforce at the onset of the Great Recession — have very little confidence in America’s banks (27 percent), Silicon Valley (27 percent), or corporate America (20 percent). In the midst of police shootings and lax sexual assault sentencing, more than two-thirds of millennials lack confidence in our criminal justice system.
Bureaucrats garner even less support: A whopping 72 percent of millennials have little confidence in the federal government.
By contrast, a Gallup poll conducted during the same approximate time period found that the general public felt significantly differently toward these institutions than young folks: 75 percent had some level of confidence in banks, 63 percent in big business, and 66 percent in the criminal justice system.
Millennials’ institutional distrust comes coupled with major economic anxiety:
An overwhelming majority of millennials are concerned with not being able to afford unexpected health care bills (74 percent), secure a good-paying job (78 percent), or make enough money to eventually retire (79 percent).
The Clinton campaign is well aware of its millennial shortcomings and has made efforts to lure back young voters. But millennials’ lack of support appears to be rooted in a distrust of establishment in general — and it is entirely possible that the Democrats won't win back the demographic unless serious foundational questions are addressed.