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Why did young Democrats come around on Hillary?

After scorning her in 2008, a new poll shows young Democrats are overwhelmingly ready to support Clinton if she runs again.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech at the Canada 2020 conference in Ottawa on on Oct. 6, 2014.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech at the Canada 2020 conference in Ottawa on on Oct. 6, 2014.

After scorning her in 2008 for a younger upstart, young Democrats are eager to support Hillary Clinton if she runs for president again, according to a new poll released Thursday by Fusion.

Clinton is absolutely dominant in the field of Democrats who might run in 2016, capturing support from 58% of likely voters aged 18-34. Her closest competition, Vice President Joe Bide, is way behind at 13%.

Interestingly, despite lots of buzz surrounding Elizabeth Warren, only 9% of respondents said they would vote for the Massachusetts senator if the Democratic primary were held today. That puts her in third.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer capture just 1% or 2% of the vote.

The poll confirms plenty of anecdotal evidence and some other early survey research that shows a rather stunning turnaround for young Democrats on the former secretary of state. A generation that got into politics with Barack Obama is now poised to support his former rival.

What happened?

The poll reflects the party's overall embrace of Clinton, who benefits from a strengthened resume, the lack of a clear opponent and a desire for a more experienced hand at the tiller after a somewhat disappointing six years of President Obama. But for young Democrats in particular, Clinton's key draw seems to be a chance to make history again by electing the first woman president.

That was the most common explanation heard when msnbc joined the pro-Clinton super PAC Ready for Hillary on a bus tour of college campuses in Iowa.

“I want to say I was part of a movement to elect the first female president in 240 years of this country’s history,” said Pierce Fieldsend, an Iowa State University sophomore who got interested in politics after seeing an Obama speech, but is now working to promote Clinton.

Clinton has also worked hard to boost her appeal to the so-called millennial generation, with an expanded social media presence, a focus on issues important to young people, appearances on “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” and more.

Ready for Hillary, meanwhile, has set up chapters on more than 80 campuses nationally, with a focus on the early presidential states. 

To be sure, it’s possible the Fusion poll, like many early presidential surveys, is merely reflecting the name recognition of the potential candidates. Clinton is an international political celebrity and Biden is the sitting vice president. But Warren is just one senator out of 100. 

The poll asked respondents only whom they would vote for if the election were held today, giving them a list of names to choose from, instead of asking them to rate the favorability of each name. So there is no way of knowing how many of the respondents are actually familiar with Warren. 

The telephone poll of 1,200 likely voters was conducted in both English and Spanish between Sept. 12 and Sept. 22, with a margin of error of +/- 2.83%.