New Survey Suggests Bernie Can Win Only With Enormous Youth Turnout

I understand that the cool kids are not supposed to talk about electability right now, since everyone understands that this is just code for “I hate Bernie.” So far I’ve been a good boy and stayed away from this, but I’ve long had one very specific problem with Bernie Sanders’ electability. It has nothing to do with his socialist views, though. It has to do with his supporters.

As we all know, support for Sanders is highest among the young, and Sanders has explicitly said that his election strategy depends on generating high turnout among the young. But here’s the thing: every four years, for as long as I can remember, I’ve heard promises that this is the year we’ll finally get young people to turn out for us. But they never do. Overall turnout goes up and down depending on the election, but 18-29 year olds always make up 17-19 percent of the voting population. Always.

In a new paper, David Broockman and Joshua Kalla use the detailed results of a huge new survey and conclude that Sanders can indeed do as well against Trump as more moderate candidates, but only if he makes up for lost votes among older voters by motivating young voters to turn out in unprecedented numbers:

If this is true, it’s a real problem. Sanders hasn’t increased turnout in the primaries and caucuses so far, and to have a chance in the general election he’d need youth turnout to be well over 50 percent. That’s never happened in recent history. Even Barack Obama in 2008 couldn’t quite manage it.

I’ve never been a big fan of Sanders, but I try to remain fairminded about measurable quantities. Youth turnout is just such a thing, and it’s one that I’m sensitive to since I long ago became cynical about promises of getting young people to vote in larger numbers than usual. Maybe Bernie can finally do it. But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate