Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio has made a huge push to gain millennial supporters this past week, most notably his ad released Tuesday. The ad features a group of millennials, who are all concerned about differing issues facing the country and believe that Sen. Rubio is the answer.
The ad coincides with a poll conducted Jan. 4-7, 2016 on behalf of USA Today that questioned adults ages 18-34 about their voting habits and the issues they find most important. Just 9 percent of the responders said they would vote for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) if the presidential primary election were held today, compared to 46 percent of millennials who said they would vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders.
However, don't believe the narrative that all millennials are bleeding heart liberals. In fact, 38 percent of the respondents identified themselves as conservative to some degree, with just 34 percent of them identifying as liberal. When the poll really broke down the issues, many of the millennials did favor a more typically liberal stance on issues like gun control, and their support of the U.S. accepting refugees from Syria. The results show a disconnect between social and fiscal issues among this more tolerant age group.
Sen. Rubio is known as "the Crown Prince" of the Tea Party movement and despite his minority makeup, he is as conservative as it gets. The pro-life, anti same-sex-marriage, and second amendment supporter may have some trouble garnering millennial support with these extremely conservative views.
Though some millennials might not support Sen. Rubio's social views, he is still trying to connect to them through social media. The young senator has been dominating on social media, from retweeting his young volunteers, to blogging on Tumblr, a platform that candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz all have yet to use.
This week Rubio appeared on NBC's "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," which could be further used to reach the younger demographic. According to Nielsen polls, Fallon raked in 2.243 million viewers in the 18-49 age demographic in a single week in 2014. The millennial generation, now the nation's largest, includes those born between 1982 and 2004
Many millennial voters have gotten involved on the Rubio campaign by starting their own social media platforms in support of the Florida Senator.
"Many candidates do tend to ignore millennials and pander towards others. But Marco from day one has been very different," says Nick Weiner, a millennial supporter of Rubio and leader of the grassroots team, United With Rubio. Weiner has been able to not only follow Sen. Rubio on Twitter, but even interact with him.
"Marco and I follow each other on twitter. He follows a lot of supporters and he interacts with people frequently in the comment sections and in replies on twitter," said Weiner.
This is not an uncommon trend for Rubio says Dr. Betsy Sigman, an expert in technology, social media, electronic commerce and information systems as well as a teaching professor at Georgetown University.
"I would say Marco Rubio seems to be leading other Republican candidates in terms of the number of followers, with the exception of @realDonaldTrump, who is a media phenomenon for many reasons," said Sigman.
Though for older voters the idea of social media influencing something as large as the presidential election seems practically impossible, you'd be surprised how much millennials use social media to form decisions.
"I think Twitter is the social media venue most likely to have an impact on the upcoming presidential election," said Sigman who believes that social networks help candidates stand out and be memorable in the minds of millennial voters, an idea that 29-year-old millennial Rubio supporter Darvio Morrow believes.
"I think that Marco reaching out to us on social media shows that he understands the value of our vote and that he's putting real resources behind trying to get it. He's not just talking about it. He's putting his money where his mouth is by creating those ads and really making a concerted effort to attract millennials, the only Republican in this cycle that's doing so," said Morrow.
Morrow said that without Rubio he probably wouldn't be backing anyone in this election, but has been so inspired by the young senator that he's a part of a social media group called Generation Rubio. The entire purpose of the group is to explicitly attract millennials, minorities and women to the cause. Everyone who runs the group are millennials, and all but one of them are minorities.
"I do believe social media is key. If you aren't talking to millennials on social media then you don't exist," said Morrow.
The strong conservative doesn't seem like he will ever change his views on social issues, so millennials may have to decide whether to cast their vote based on their social views or their fiscal ones. We'll have to wait for the primary to see if Sen. Rubio was able to sway the younger demographic with his modernized social media game. If you're a millennial interested in learning more about the Rubio campaign, from a millennial perspective, check out the Generation Rubio and United With Rubio links below.