It’s hard to see though, how Millennials could have played such a powerful role in the election of President Obama but at the same time feel that abandoning the Democratic ticket isn’t going to have a big effect on this election. If anything, the stakes are much higher and the Millennial voting bloc has only gotten larger over the past 4 years:
Boomers as a bloc are both less diverse along almost any categorical attribute we’d want to look at, less diverse in overall worldview, far more polarized in political affiliation due to the accumulation of long-standing history with one party or other, and as the data in your post shows: far less likely to vote for third-party candidates.
One of the consequences of Boomers being not likely to be swayed by third parties is that the Electoral College is not very likely to see an impact from third parties at all. The last time a third party candidate even won a single electoral college vote was in 1968. Because the votes are awarded on a “winner-take-all” basis according to the popular vote in each state, a 3rd party would have to win at least one state’s popular vote to even get a sliver of the College (note that it is possible to win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College, and although it is rare it has happened 4 times in US history — most notably in 2000 when Gore lost to Bush, which is why you will hear Boomers (and some of us Gen Xers) prattling on about the dangers of third party “protest voting”. We lived through it and it was particularly painful — and it’s hard to find anyone to disagree with the statement that GWB was one of the worst if not the worst presidencies in American history. So the wound is still fresh. In fact — and this is out of scope to dig into here — a healthy chunk of the historical developments both Trump and Sanders have tried to pin on Clinton were actually the result of Dubya’s terrible failure at life which is why it stings extra hard).
There is no reason to believe there will be a sea change in the states tipping towards Gary Johnson or Jill Stein in this election — the numbers are way too low right now given how close we are to Nov 8 and in the limited coverage that they receive, neither is making particularly good use of the microphone when they have it. At this stage on the game, there is no more room for mistakes and every speech, interview, debate, press conference, etc. matters materially to the outcome.
Moreover, both third parties are being dramatically outspent by the 2 major parties — both for the presidential race and for all the downticket races; there is also a lot of extra force being exerted in the ground game vs. third parties. To your point about Clinton’s campaign spending — the bulk of it is not going to highly-paid consultants (although to some degree there is expenditure on campaign staff of course): it is going to media buys. National ad spots are not cheap and Clinton is running them relentlessly. This is what it takes to win the US presidency — whether we agree on its appropriateness or not (I certainly agree there’s way too much monied interest influencing politics), it is the strategy that all the players need to play if they want to win in 2016. There should be way less private influence and way more public influence in the entire civic process, and at least one candidate agrees with that statement while the other has bragged about giving money to politicians to keep them favorable to his business interests (the Pam Bondi scandal is one on recent record).
It’s not that the Olds hate the Young — it’s more that at that point in their lives aging voters are way more concerned about protecting the things of value they feel they’ve built or worked hard for over the course of a lifetime, which is why they tend to shift more conservatively over time. When my parents retired they wanted to enjoy a leisurely retirement, not tear up the Establishment that helped them build it (and I doubt that will be the case for Boomers in 2016, either — if they’ve lived to see another election, they’re likely to see “The System” as “Having Worked”. So, while I agree that the Olds could do more to understand the motivations of the Young, I certainly feel the reverse is true as well — we could have a lot more compassion for our points of view, overall).
Of course, the Millennial generation faces a much harsher reality than either the Boomers or the “Silent” Generation did at the same age (the latter had to live through WWII, but for the most part were still too young to actually have to go off and fight in the war). The challenges are much more akin to what conditions were in post-Depression America, but without the New Deal as a deus ex machina — but if we did a thought experiment where we assume for the moment that there is merit in the idea that hell is not going to suddenly freeze over to produce a third party President and compare the policy proposals of the 2 candidates in the set statistically almost guaranteed to produce the winner, we find only one who thinks focusing on policy to improve housing access and affordability is important, including curbing rental costs and offering matching funding to working families for home downpayments:
This same candidate literally brought the entire concept of universal health care to the nation, only to be ground into dust by a vicious pro-business lobby in cahoots with the Republican party in the 90s. The ACA itself is an extension of what was then Hillarycare — we have universal health care now: it’s just not the single-payer model that Bernie Sanders has advocated for. Clinton has had health care for the working class and as a basic right on her agenda for over 40 years, so it naturally figures prominently in her meticulously proposed policy plans that almost no one ever reads or wants to talk about in the media or otherwise (most notably, the promise to secure the right for the ability to negotiate the costs of prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket costs, which the federal government does not currently have and is a large part of the reason costs continue to skyrocket):
Regarding the environment, again we cannot look to the media for coverage of Clinton’s policy proposals (because policy discussion is largely considered a snoozer that doesn’t sell ads), but luckily we have her actual entire litany of wonkish fact sheet literature to consult, where we find that of the two candidates, she is the only one who believes climate change exists and will work to help shepherd the economy to a renewable energy economy (the goal of powering all US homes with renewables by the end of term 1 is particularly ambitious):
Re: Obama’s record on the environment — it’s difficult to see him as a slacker there especially in comparison to history: stopping the Keystone pipeline was a huge victory, as was finally getting the Paris climate accord ratified. He has expanded public lands more than any other President in history, created the largest protected place on the planet around Hawaii, and made use of the national monument provision to set aside more than 265 million acres that will be protected from development. That’s a strong conservation legacy, and Clinton intends to continue protecting public lands as well as offering the first animal rights and wildlife policy on a major party presidential platform, ever.
The irony is, because of the strange twist of time, a Democrat is running on literally the most progressive platform ever to make it this far in a presidential candidacy — but she’s in danger of losing to a white nationalist fascist because the most diverse group of voters under the age of 45 to ever exist in history now find her views to be too centrist.