A few months ago, my mom asked me a question that, despite becoming a staple of this election cycle, has yet to be fully answered: What is it with your generation and Bernie Sanders?
Millennials, the generation long thought to be lazy and self-involved, are supporting Sanders in droves, an unprecedented move considering not that long ago, millennials’ interest in politics and voting was well below that of older generations. According to Pew Research, only 26 percent of millennials viewed politics as a top-three interest last year.
But today, Bernie Sanders’ ascent in the presidential race and public eye can largely be credited to his resonance within the millennial group. That could be because millennials are more civically oriented than other generations and their left-leaning political attitudes fall in line with many of Sanders’ campaign issues.
In fact, a survey from CentSai found that student loans and health care costs are the major impetuses behind millennial support for Sanders. The growing concern about student loan debt was cited as the main financial worry of millennials (32 percent), and health care wasn’t far behind (24 percent).
A major talking point of Sanders’ candidacy has been the promise to make college tuition free at public institutions, as well as to cut student loan interest rates, undoubtedly an attractive offer to millennials who have racked up thousands in debt in search of a degree.
Sanders’ promise of “Medicare for all” and his pledge to wrangle health care spending may not strike a chord with fierce Obamacare objectors (in a recent debate, he mentioned that Obamacare doesn’t go far enough, and that Cuba has made significant strides in its health care initiative — two statements that probably didn’t stop any of the “Bernie is a socialist” commentary), but it’s a shift that millennials can get behind as we fall off our parents’ insurance plans.
In the poll of 2,287 millennials, nearly 56 percent say they will vote for Sanders. Clinton came in second at 24 percent, with Trump (11 percent) and Cruz (8 percent) trailing behind the Democrats.
While millennials are unequivocally “feeling the Bern,” that’s not to say this increasingly influential generation will secure Sanders the White House come Election Day.
In a separate survey by the Harvard Institute of Politics, data shows that 61 percent of 18 to 29 year olds hope a Democrat takes the White House in November, whereas only 33 percent said they would vote for a Republican. As reported by NPR, that nearly doubles the gap of a similar poll from last year, where the disparity was only 15 percentage points, with Democrats still edging out the GOP.
As it stands, the most likely outcome for November will pit frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton against one another, a scenario that will work in Clinton’s favor, at least on the millennial front.
According to the Harvard survey, Clinton has a 36-point margin over Trump at 61 percent, but 14 percent of millennial voters did say they were undecided. Still, even if that 14 percent moved over to Trump’s 25 percent, the millennial group is still a hard get for the Republican billionaire.
Trump has the highest negative ratings of any candidate in the survey (74 percent unfavorable versus 17 percent favorable), including his fellow Republicans. It’s Sanders — with a 54 percent favorable rating and 31 percent unfavorable — who has the only positive net favorable number. Despite this, Clinton has the upper hand.
“I think what’s striking about this, when we look at young voters who view Bernie Sanders very favorably, Clinton actually has 80 percent of that vote,” John Della Volpe, the director of the Harvard Institute of Politics poll, told NPR.
So why the rallying cry for Sanders? I can’t pinpoint it for all the moms and pundits who are curious about his almost cult-like appeal (and my answer might not align with others in my age group or endear me to those who aren’t bleeding hearts), but it’s clear that millennials know what they want… and at least for now, it’s Bernie. Will that ring true come November, or will the last vestige of his legacy be Larry David SNL sketches? Only time will tell.