Why young Democrats love Bernie Sanders

Why young Democrats love Bernie Sanders
Credit: Shutterstock

Perhaps the most eye-popping statistic to come out of last week’s Iowa caucuses was Bernie Sanders’s overwhelming advantage among young voters…

Bernie Sanders proudly describes himself as a “socialist” (or more commonly, as a “democratic socialist”). To Americans of a certain age, this is a potential liability. I’m just old enough (38) to have grown up during the Cold War, a time when “socialist” did not just mean “far left” but also implied something vaguely un-American. If you’re older than me, you may have even more acutely negative associations with “socialism” and may see it as a step on the road to communism. If you’re a few years younger than me, however, you may instead associate “socialism” with the social democracies of Northern Europe, which have high taxes and large welfare states. Sweden may not be your cup of tea, but it isn’t scary in the way the USSR was to people a generation ago.

Indeed, views of socialism are highly correlated with a voter’s age. According to a May 2015 YouGov poll, conducted just before Sanders launched his campaign, a plurality of voters aged 18 to 29 had a favorable view of socialism. But among voters 65 and older, just 15 percent viewed socialism favorably, to 70 percent unfavorably.

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