Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders recently hosted a rally in Boston, Massachusetts this past Saturday, in which a significant crowd of over 13,000 people showed up to support. Known for his immense youth support throughout the nation, the crowd was overwhelmingly made up of young people. However, will this new spout of young voters be sufficient enough to grant Sanders the democratic nomination?
Before showing up on Saturday, I wasn’t thinking much about the demographic of most Bernie Sander’s fans. While standing in line to enter the gates at the rally, I looked around and realized most of the people in the crowd didn’t quite fit into any demographic at all. Although Sanders is vastly supported by young people, it’s not his only support group. He manages to attract support throughout the country despite race, age, sexual orientation, gender, or social class. Among all the presidential candidates though, youth resonates mostly with Bernie. I find this unfortunate, considering how many people my age don’t actually vote. I mean, I personally had to force my friends to go vote and many of them were either unwilling to, uneducated on the candidates, or underestimated the importance of their individual vote. I think part of the reason why many people, especially youth, don’t vote is because they think their vote doesn’t matter. They see themselves as just one tiny part within a large, vast system… and that’s the problem.
Despite being among the oldest presidential candidates to date, Senator Bernie Sanders is ironically a favorite among the nation’s young voters. This increasing support can most likely be attributed to his transparent support for issues that youth often favor, including cancelling all student loan debt, funding universal health care, and categorizing climate change as not only a national issue, but a global issue moreover. The question now is not whether the youth support is there, but rather whether or not his support system will turn out to vote. This lack of support is evident in the current democratic primary results, in which Sanders is unfortunately trailing behind former Vice President, Joe Biden. As of March 5th, Biden has received 627 total delegates while Sanders has contrastly only earned about 551 delegates. In Massachusetts alone, Biden lead with a total of 37 delegates as opposed to Bernie’s 29. Can this deficit be associated with low voter turnout among youth? Or is it more heavily associated with the withdrawal of candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar? After dropping out, both Klobuchar and Buttigieg endorsed Joe Biden, increasing support and attention for the Biden campaign- and potentially affecting Sanders’ chances at receiving the democratic nomination. Throughout his campaign, Sanders has urged young voters to turn out and exercise their right to vote, which is exactly the kind of support he now needs in order to beat Biden.
As mentioned in The New York Times article, “How Huge Voter Turnout Eluded Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday,” voters under the age of 30 made up less than 20% of the electorate in every state. This is highly problematic for any candidate whose support largely consists of a majority of young people. On the other hand, Biden has immense support throughout the black community, partially due to his vice presidency alongside Barack Obama. Black voter support is something that Sanders’ definitely lacks, although he does have significant latinx support. It seems Sanders attracts the support of voters with the lowest voter turnout, such as Latinos and youth. Due to this fact, it is vital that Sanders’ young followers turn out in the following primaries in order to advance. Without them, it is highly unlikely he has the power or capability to take someone like Biden down.
So the answer is no, youth alone will not project Bernie into the Democratic nomination simply because they don’t have the numbers necessary to do so. However, they are extremely important and could essentially make a huge impact if they simply took the time to vote. So how can we push adolescents to be more civically engaged? In order to increase youth voter turnout, we must instill the importance of voting into them. We are one of the few countries who grant this right to their citizens, and that alone should be motivation to get up and vote. As a nation, we should see this as a privilege, not something to take for granted. Growing up in a family that doesn’t vote, I never saw the importance in it until I began finding my own interest in politics. Now, I feel lucky enough to be able to make my own voice heard, even if it’s just one voice in a large sea of voices. It is our duty as citizens to educate ourselves on the candidates and their policies, and then exercise our constitutional right to vote, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexuality.