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Iowa’s young voters fell in love with Bernie

REUTERS/Chris Keane
In the Iowa caucus entrance polls, those aged 17-29 favored Sen. Bernie Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a breathtaking margin of 84-14 percent.

The exit polls on the Democratic side in Iowa (actually they should be called entrance polls since they were taken as Iowans entered their caucus sites) had some pretty staggering splits, especially according to age and which candidate qualities a voter most valued.

It’s conventional wisdom that Bernie Sander appeals to younger voters, but OMG, in the entrance polls, those aged 17-29 favored Sanders over Hillary Clinton by a breathtaking margin of 84-14 percent. Luckily for Clinton, this age group made up only 18 percent of those attending the caucuses. It is common for young groups to turn out at lower rates than older voters.

The slightly less young (age 30-44) were also solidly for Sanders, but by a more reasonable breakdown of 58-37. All groups older than those went solidly for Clinton. The 45-64 year olds (the largest age group by turnout, representing 36 percent of the total) went for Clinton, 58-38; the seniors (representing 28 percent of all caucus-goers) went for Clinton by 69-26 percent, which would look huge if it wasn’t for Sanders’ incredible number among the youngest.

The breakdowns according to what quality the voter most wanted in a candidate were also a pretty powerful measure that underscores how much Clinton benefits from the perception that she is the more electable candidate, and how much she is hurt by the perception that she is dishonest or at least not straightforward.

Among the 20 percent of caucus participants who said the most important quality was who could win the general election, Clinton was preferred by 77-17. Among those (28 percent) who said their priority was to support a candidate with the right experience, Clinton wins, 88-9.

But among those (26 percent) who wanted above all a candidate who “cares about people like me,” Sanders wins, 74-22. And Clinton’s worst category (other than her lack of appeal to the youngest voters) among those whose top priority is to support the candidate who is “honest and trustworthy,” Sanders won by 83-10.

Given all of the above, and given that Clinton has the potential to become the first woman president, the breakdown by gender was surprisingly small. Among women, Clinton was favored by 53-42. Among men, Sanders by 50-44. But Clinton also benefitted by the gender breakdown of those who turned out, 57 percent of whom were women. Interestingly, among Republican caucus-goers, the turnout was 52 percent men to 48 percent women.

The New York Times published the full breakdown of the exit polls: for Democrats here and for Republicans here.

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Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 02/03/2016 - 11:46 am.

    Where is the diversity? GOP had 2 of top 3 vote getters who are Latino and young. The Dems trotted out 2 very old white folks.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/03/2016 - 12:30 pm.

      The fact

      That you can’t recognize that Latino is a vast generalization, and that the Cubans community specifically has a very unique history politically in this country is telling. That you expect folks to vote for people who would materially harm their families and community based on their heritage is sad. (Oh and before you go there, the same would be true of Carson or Fiorina and their respective category of tokenism). Conservatives just can’t seem to get it, we see through you, your old tactics don’t work anymore, find some new material.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/03/2016 - 12:32 pm.

      Two Cubans

      whose parents were part of the upper middle class Batististas who left after the revolution (or before it when they saw it coming).
      They’re not very representative of Americans with Spanish speaking ancestry, most of whom came from Puerto Rico (the East Coast) of Mexico (the Southwest).

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 02/03/2016 - 12:46 pm.

      Oh Lordy

      Pick just one stance on “diversity.” The GOP complains that Obama won because people voted for him because he was black, and then complains that the Dems “trotted out 2 very old white folks.” Maybe the truth is that Cruz and Rubio look pretty white. And they do. Or that the voters are less concerned about diversity than the complainers would like to pretend. Maybe the issues really do matter. They appear to, at least for Bernie supporters.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/03/2016 - 01:03 pm.

      Where indeed?

      It’s a fair question because, as MinnPost readers surely are aware, the GOP is widely known, in Minnesota, Iowa and around the nation, as THE party of racial, cultural, gender and age diversity.

      Of course, calling Mr. Cruz “Latino” when he was born in Canada might confuse a few people, and even at my advanced age, I don’t generally view 44 or 45 (i.e., Rubio and Cruz) as especially young, except when compared to most of the other candidates, regardless of party. Mr. Trump is older than Mrs. Clinton, for example.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 02/04/2016 - 12:52 pm.


        Plus, there’s a difference between Hispanic and Latino. Neither Cruz nor Rubio are Latino. In any case, as I mentioned above, considering their anti-immigrant stance (ironic, given the almost guaranteed ability of a Cuban to get legal immigration status in this country, but not those of Latino origin), I highly doubt that many will select them for their “diverse” status over their policy stances.

    • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/05/2016 - 11:43 am.

      you have a point…

      And most readers can’t see your tongue in your cheek. Democrats on the radio and TV like to say it’s very important to vote for minorities and women. They leave out the fact that they confine the importance to liberal minorities and women. If it’s a conservative (and God forbid successful) candidate they are I mmediately attacked as not “really” been a minority.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/03/2016 - 12:33 pm.

    It would be interesting

    to have data from both entrance and exit polls for the same event, to see how stable the responses were.

  3. Submitted by Jim Million on 02/03/2016 - 12:43 pm.

    Young Gotta Get It

    I wonder just how much the DNC really wants the “youth vote.” The Clinton campaign seems to not. The Sanders campaign worked diligently to curry favor from Millenials. Given the demographic breakdown here, it seems unrealistic to expect someone 24 to spend a Monday night with a bunch of us old guys.

    When I was a mostly clean-cut college kid of 21, I went to the neighborhood Democrat Precinct Captain’s home to see what this was all about. He wasn’t going to let me in, until two other “gray hairs” talked him into it. I suppose my motorcycle jacket bothered him.

    If the younger folk don’t get the delegate process, they likely won’t factor in delegate counts.

  4. Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/03/2016 - 01:02 pm.

    Diversity abounds

    A woman, a Jew and two seniors. That ain’t chopped liver.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/03/2016 - 02:28 pm.

      Diversity, Indeed!

      Throw in an African American with a limp, and you have a commission appointed by James Watt.

      Political humor from the 80s. I’ll be here all week.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/03/2016 - 02:38 pm.

    Clinton’s problem is…

    Now people will be giving Bernie a closer look. When you actually look at the factors that are Clinton’s current strengths, Bernie is actually stronger. In some ways he’s actually a better feminist, his experience in government is broader and longer, and his policy positions are much stronger for the elderly. If people start noticing this Hillary could be in deep water much sooner than later.

  6. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/03/2016 - 02:52 pm.

    The issue is not race, age or gender…

    The issue for the young Dems is not race, age or gender. It is which candidate is giving away the most “free stuff.”

    The more “free stuff” offered the more of the young Democratic base will show up.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/03/2016 - 03:43 pm.

    Free stuff?

    It’s funny republicans keep bringing this up. I interviewed several young (17-18 year olds) at Bernie’s rally last week, and I’ve attended a couple other Sanders events in the last week or so… not once did the free tuition thing come up. These young people are not looking for free stuff, they’re looking for a more equitable and democratic society, and they think they’re more likely to get it with Sanders than Clinton.

  8. Submitted by Tim Smith on 02/03/2016 - 04:04 pm.


    are used to having everything handed to them so of course they support “free stuff” candidates like Obama and Sanders. Heck Obama must have learned it from Oprah. “look under your chair!”
    It all looks good when you are young because it will be a while before you suffer the consequences. There will be far fewer workers in that generation to support us oldies too. They will become conservatives or else suffer the socialist 99% tax level.

  9. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 02/03/2016 - 05:22 pm.

    Every Generation Goes Through This Early Adulthood Phase

    Where they believe that everything is possible,…

    and nothing can stop them,…

    because they’re young,…

    and full of energy,…

    and full of new ideas (which they don’t realize aren’t actually new at all),…

    and they’re going to work really, really hard.

    Bernie sings very clearly in that same key,…

    but he, of all people, should know that change happens from the ground up,…

    i.e. local elections, state elections, house and senate elections, etc…

    takes a very long time,…

    and faces very strong headwinds every step of the way,…

    specifically the reality that age and treachery will win out over youth and virtue EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    The youngsters who are so enamored with Bernie will only accomplish the changes they envision,…

    if they’re willing to keep right on working for them after Bernie goes down in flames (which he will),…

    because, although they’re careful not to say it,…

    the GOP’s most ardent dream it that Bernie will sweep Hillary aside,…

    and they’ll get to run against him, rather than her,…

    whom they haven’t been able to lay a glove on despite decades of trying,…

    including over 11 hours in her recent testimony before the Benghazi with hunt.

    When it comes to Bernie, my millennial friends,…

    if you win, you LOSE,…

    but being a nice old man, I promise not to say this,…

    when you learn that lesson in a very hard way.

    • Submitted by Joe Musich on 02/03/2016 - 07:15 pm.

      Yikes !

      And one more yikes. I would rather live and face being disillusioned then become disillusioned. To become hopeless is to accept defeat. Dwell in the joy of possibility. What was the classic Who lyric ?

  10. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/03/2016 - 08:03 pm.

    Free Stuff?

    Not sure this is clear:
    Please tell me the difference between investment and free stuff? Since these are the folks paying our SS wouldn’t it be advisable to make sure they are healthy happy and smart? Or is the persuasion to just place them into financial servitude their entire life to keep growing the wealth of the 1%. Seems more like they want what this country was founded on a fair and equitable system, not a corrupt plutocracy. Suppose folks didn’t by chance catch 60 minutes Sunday?

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/04/2016 - 10:08 am.

      Forget it

      Conservatives seem to be content to “cater to” their “betters”, in the hopes of a boon being granted to them for their obedience. I never have understood the desire to be subject to the whims of an elite so increasingly seperate from daily existence of society, as opposed to a duly elected representative government. But then, as it seems so many conservatives see their fellow citizens not as equals and partners but as enemies to be defeated, it makes sense that they would chhise the path that ensuring the lowest probability that those “others” voices can be heard and acted upon.

  11. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/04/2016 - 09:38 am.

    Voters…who’s young , who’s old; who is dead or alive?

    Every time I see young voters labeled as “youngsters’ or ” kids” rather than the legitimate term “young voters”, I almost lose it and the image I perceive is…an old man sitting in a rocking chair banging his willow cane and spitting his cynicism into a rusty soup can beside him…so much for soup cans.

    Losing hope? That’s wearing your bedroom slippers all day and shuffling grumpily into the future.

    Win or lose Bernie…he speaks for the living and any hope that survives when the young, wise voter and many others so enlightened, believes, votes for future change and do recognize our survival demands it…way to go, yes indeed.

    Thanks to Bernie Sanders and the young voters and many others who still care care enough to dream and make that dream a reality…be it in or out of the big white house on Penn…

    I praise the young and vital among us who just may get us there…

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 02/07/2016 - 11:31 am.

      Thanks for the Memories

      Most of us here seem to believe current elections are for us, when truly, there’s not much we can do at this stage of life to either repair our past failures or preserve our successes.

      The under 30 crowd must determine their future, not ours. For the most part, life for us “old guys” is better now than likely most ever, except that it may be lasting too long. We really cannot make the future lives of the young somehow “better,” except to encourage them to take hold of their lives, present and future.

      Perhaps we can level the path for them a bit by our actions, but not really much. They must look to their futures and make them for themselves. It’s foolish for us to seek solutions for them by chewing on the “could haves/should haves” of our past. They must–and will–decide on what “should be/will be.”

  12. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/04/2016 - 10:31 am.

    Free Stuff for the Rich !!!

    It is really amusing to hear this “free stuff” meme from the party whose every proposal consists of giving more benefits to the wealthy. Less tax, fewer pesky environmental and labor requirements for their businesses, etc., etc.

    You know what is really “free stuff” thinking?

    Thinking that you can run a modern country with the budget of a third world country.

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