The Millennial Fascination with Sanders

Posted On May 5, 2016

If there’s two things we’ve learned during this election cycle, it’s that Donald Trump doesn’t care for protesters and millennials love them some Bernie Sanders.

A recent Harvard IOP poll found that Sanders is the only presidential candidate with a net positive favorability rating among voters between the ages of 18 and 29.

Well of course, you may say: The entitled generation wants free stuff. Of course, they are supporting a man who refers to himself as a democratic socialist.

It’s interesting, however, that the same Harvard poll found that two-thirds of its millennial respondents did not support socialism. While a majority of the respondents did not support capitalism either – making one wonder exactly what form of government they do want – more of them (42 percent) supported capitalism than socialism (33 percent).

So if they don’t believe in an even redistribution of wealth, what is the millennial fascination with Sanders?

Harvard polling director John Della Volpe told the Washington Post he sees it as “a lack of trust” that extends to “the very premise of how our country is organized.” Only 15 percent of millennial respondents believed the U.S. is headed in the right direction.

Of course, many older voters and practically all Trump supporters would believe it’s being flushed down the tubes as well. “Lack of Trust” could be the banner flown above this entire election.

It may just be that millennials are worried about the same sorts of things as their Generation X parents and their Baby Boomer grandparents – how to be able to pay for stuff.

In a story late last year examining Sanders’ appeal with millennials, the Post interviewed a high school senior who’d watched an older sister leave college because she “could barely afford to do her laundry,” and the 27-year-old owner of an online marketing company who’d given up on the idea that she’d ever own a house as she and her fiancé, an Air Force veteran, have nearly $100,000 in student loan debt.

“It’ll be 10 to 15 years, and by that time, we’ll be too old to have children,” Tara Reprogle told the Post. “I don’t know how people afford to have children these days. We’re exactly the kind of people who should be looking at a middle-class lifestyle.”

According to, college tuition has increased 1,120 percent over the last 30 years, nearly double the 600 percent increase in the cost of health care during that period.

While their rejection of socialism in the Harvard poll would seem to indicate that they’re fully aware of the unlikelihood of Sanders being able to keep his promise of free college education for all if he were to be elected, his willingness to say it tells them he means business about an issue that’s important and immediate to them.

Regardless of what one may think of Sanders’ extremist political positions, it’s not difficult to understand why he appeals to millennials if we’ll look past the stereotype. He is speaking to the issues that affect them.

Categories: Generation Y / Millennials