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Iowa’s young voters fell in love with Bernie

In caucus entrance polls, those aged 17-29 favored Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton by a breathtaking margin of 84-14 percent.

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.
REUTERS/Chris Keane

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.

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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.