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Citing a mock election that Sen. Barack Obama won, a reporter for a student newspaper asked Sen. Hillary Clinton why her numbers aren't as strong with young voters.
"Well, I think they're getting better," Clinton said at the March 25, 2008, news conference in Greensburg, Pa. "You know, I was very pleased at the reception that I've gotten here in Pennsylvania. And, you know, I did very well with young people in Ohio, Massachusetts, California."
Clinton uses three big states whose primaries she won to prove her popularity with young people. Exit polls from those states show she competed well with Obama for voters under 30 years old in two of the three states:
• In California, she and Obama tied at 49 percent each.
• In Massachusetts, she won 49 percent. Obama won 48 percent.
• In Ohio, Clinton won 35 percent. Obama won 61 percent.
Clinton did better among the youngest voters — those under 25 — in California and Massachusetts, but fared worse in Ohio:
• In California, Clinton won 50 percent to Obama's 48 percent.
• In Massachusetts, she won 57 percent while Obama took 39 percent.
• In Ohio, Clinton won 29 percent compared to Obama's 70 percent.
Joe Lenski of Edison Media Research, the company that conducts the exit polls, said the sample sizes for the voters under 25 in the three states were only about 100 people each — too few to produce meaningful results.
"I wouldn't say (she did well) with that number because the sample size is too low," said Lenski, who is the executive vice president. "But I'm a survey researcher, not a politician."
The figures for voters under 30 are more reliable, he said, and agreed with Clinton's claim that she did well with young voters in Massachusetts and California, where she split the vote with Obama. Considering Clinton usually trails Obama by about 20 points among young voters, a tie is pretty good, Lenski said.
Exit poll patterns show her performing best among older voters, he added.
Lenski noted that Clinton won even more youth votes in Oklahoma and Arkansas — 60 percent and 56 percent under 30, respectively, he said — but may have passed over those examples because they're not big, core Democratic states like California and Massachusetts.
It has been a bit of conventional wisdom in this campaign that Obama is winning the youth vote, which is why we evaluated Clinton's claim of doing "very well" in that context. As Lenski said, splitting the under-30 vote with Obama in Massachusetts and California is a good record for Clinton, and we find that part of her claim to be true. But by including Ohio in her claim, where Clinton took less than half of the under-30 vote that Obama won, she has gone way too far, leading us to conclude that her overall claim to doing "very well" among young voters is Half True.
San Francisco Chronicle, Highlights of exit poll in the California Democratic primary , Feb. 5, 2008
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Clinton holds base support, exit polls say , March 4, 2008
CNN, Exit Polls: Ohio
Phone interview, Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Media Research, April 4, 2008
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