Despite his lead in the Republican polls and ubiquitous media presence, businessman and TV reality star Donald Trump is unlikely to make it to his party’s national convention, or so says our survey of more than 1,300 U.S. college students. Not only do 80% of all respondents believe Trump’s campaign will end by this spring, but of those who plan to vote Republican, 65% believe that as well.
And while students enjoy his “tell it like it is” style, most find him bombastic and extremist and are concerned about his lack of political experience. These majority opinions hold among those planning to vote Republican, with more than half (56%) of that subset also disagreeing with his stands on issues.
College Millennial consumers love celebrities, sure, but brands — and this extends to political candidates — must deliver relevant substance on shared ideals to ultimately earn their support. Any brand that attempts to build on star power alone, or that believes it and not the audience is in the driver’s seat in terms of engagement, is making a serious misstep.
In the poll, Trump is statistically tied with political outsider Ben Carson within the Republican slate of candidates, with former Gov. Jeb Bush placing a distant third. The leading candidate across the entire survey was Sen. Bernie Sanders, who topped both Republicans and Democrats, and who also enjoyed large margins over both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. What’s particularly interesting here is this group is responding to candidates two generations older than themselves, who are seen as having fresh and serious perspectives.
Asked to select anyone whose name might be recognized to be President, the students’ Top 10 were: Sanders first with 17% of the vote, President Barack Obama second and Clinton third, followed closely by rapper/producer Kanye West. In continued descending order the remaining were: former President Bill Clinton; comedian Jon Stewart; Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Carson, and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. Mr. Trump ranked 11th. With the significant interest in the vast slate of Republicans, this audience selected the following as their Top 10: Trump and Carson; Bush; Marco Rubio; Rand Paul; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz (tied); Carly Fiorina and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
The survey was conducted Sept. 8 -11, 2015. The respondents self-identified as largely upperclassmen (57%) and non-traditional students (37%, similar to a national rate of 40% who are at least 25 years of age), and 68.5% female.