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by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 12
December 2019

Bernie Sanders is America’s magic grandpa

He may be 78, but the veteran socialist has a commanding vote share of young people
by Peter Franklin
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders poses for a photo with supporters. Credit: Getty.

The last few polls are dribbling in, then it’s nothing until the exit poll at 10pm (oh, and the actual results). Not until 10pm, anyway. But to tide you over, here’s one from America.

It’s by Quinnipiac, and it’s mostly about the race for the Democratic nomination. The top line isn’t that exciting — Joe Biden is still out in front, despite everything. The interesting stuff is in the data tables, which reveal a chasmic generational divide.

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Among the under-35s, Biden limps in third on just 11%. So who does find favour with young and young-ish voters? Is it Pete Buttigieg — who at just 37 is the youngest frontrunner by several decades? Er, no. He gets a humiliating 2% from his fellow kids.

Instead, way out in front, it’s the veteran socialist, Bernie Sanders. He may be 78 , he may have had a heart attack on the campaign trail, but among 18-to-34 year olds, he’s on a commanding vote share of 52%. Among his own 65+ age group, however, he gets a mere 2%.

Class, race, sex, income, education, geography, religion: all have an impact on political preferences. But as Ed West argues here there’s an urgent debate to be had around age.

Whether in the US or UK, the popularity of hoary-haired old men bearing free gifts isn’t a seasonal effect — but a desire among the young to transform a system that has let them down.

Issues like the affordability of housing and higher education are obvious, though unanswered, concerns, but it goes much deeper. As Freddie Sayers explained earlier this week, we’ve raised a generation that has struggled to find meaning and purpose in life.

Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic need to start thinking what they’re going to do about that.

Of course, over here, it’s too late for the current election campaign. If the Tories fall short, it will be because, beyond Brexit, they’ve offered too little hope of change.

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