Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders admitted this week that his campaign is struggling to mobilize his young base to actually get out and go vote for him.
During a news conference Wednesday in his home state of Vermont, Sanders acknowledged the difficulty of convincing young voters to head for the polls.
“Have we been as successful as I would hope in bringing in young people in? And the answer is ‘no,’” he said, according to USA Today.
“We’re making some progress but historically everybody knows that young people do not vote in the kind of numbers that older people vote,” Sanders continued.
“I think that will change in the general election. But to be honest with you, we have not done as well in bringing young people into the process. It is not easy.”
The self-described “democratic socialist” has promised a revolution that includes offering student loan forgiveness, free college tuition and socialized medicine.
Of course, younger Democrats have largely responded to these ideas. A poll released last month by The Economist/YouGov found that 60 percent of Democrats younger than 30 supported either Sanders or fellow far-left Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who exited the race Thursday.
Sanders’ support among young Democrats has been the engine that has driven his campaign.
Yet, on Super Tuesday, when it counted the most, Sanders’ young supporters were were not as impactful as their social media presence suggested they should have been.
While young people did overwhelmingly support Sanders over his Democratic rivals on Super Tuesday, overall turnout of younger Democrats was down significantly from 2016.
Instead, older Democrats showed up in droves to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden, who, by contrast to Sanders, is more of a centrist Democrat.
Biden defeated Sanders in Virginia by almost 30 points, where overall turnout was way up from 2016. Roughly 1.3 million Democrats in Virginia voted in the primary, which was up from roughly 800,000 in 2016, according to Business Insider.
At the same time, the percentage of voters ages 17-29 declined.
“And Sanders won 55% of Virginia’s young voters this year — down from 69% in 2016,” according to Business Insider.
Seventeen-year-olds can vote in a primary in Virginia as long as they will turn 18 by the time of the general election.
Similarly, in North Carolina, the share of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 declined overall, and support for Sanders dropped 12 points among that group, from 69 percent to 57 percent.
The share of the youth vote also declined in the states of Alabama, Massachusetts, South Carolina (which voted Saturday), Tennessee and Texas, all of which were won by Biden. Only in California did Sanders manage to not only win, but to expand the share of the youth vote in doing so.
Sanders won contests in California, Colorado, Utah and Vermont, while Biden won the other 10 state contests that were held Tuesday.
While Warren’s exit from the race should give Sanders a slight boost, if the Vermont senator doesn’t find a way to attract young people to get out and vote for him, it is difficult to imagine a path forward for his campaign.
Political scientists David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, of the University of California-Berkeley, and Yale University, respectively, have surveyed 40,000 voters to evaluate the electability of Democratic primary contenders, USA Today reported.
The pair concluded that Sanders must increase his support among young voters (between the ages of 18 and 29) by 11 percentage points to proceed as a viable candidate.
The lesson from Super Tuesday is a tough one for Sanders to have to learn, especially on such a crucial voting day.
While Sanders’ campaign is built on donations and online support from young people, betting the farm on a demographic that is historically unreliable on election day was risky.
It doesn’t matter how many young people mobilize to support you online if those same people don’t put down their mobile phones for long enough to vote.
Twitter polls and Instagram likes do not equate to actual votes. Sanders’ young supporters let him down when he needed them the most.
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