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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 13, 2020 - Volume 48 Issue 11
Generational divide in Democratic primaries
Section One
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Generational divide in Democratic primaries

Biden cleans up with older voters, young voters loyal to Bernie

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

"Big Tuesday," the round of Democratic primaries on March 10, seemingly advanced Joe Biden's bid to be the Democratic presidential nominee, but the results showed a serious generational divide within the Democratic Party.

While Biden cleaned up with older voters, Bernie Sanders remained the favorite among voters in the 18-29 age bracket - even in states where he was soundly defeated by Biden.

According to exit polls, Sanders won 82% of young voters in Michigan to Biden's 15%. In Missouri, Bernie took 76% of young voters, compared to Biden's 19%. In Mississippi, where Biden won a whopping 81% of the total vote, he only carried young voters by 4%.

Nevertheless, Bernie lost all three states because voters in the 18-29 cohort averaged only 12.5% of the electorate there, not nearly enough to give him the electoral victories he needed to boost his apparently flagging campaign.

For example, only about 35% of Michigan primary voters were under 45. In California and Colorado, states Sanders won on Super Tuesday, the share of those voters was about 45%.

In the short term, this is good news for Biden but does not bode well for the general election in November. Young voters were a key part of the coalition that delivered the White House to Barack Obama in 2008. He won them by a record 34% over John McCain. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, only won the youth vote by 18% in her losing campaign against Donald Trump.

The other danger sign for Biden is lack of enthusiasm among his voters. Only 46% of Biden's supporters said they were "very enthusiastic" about his candidacy. For Sanders, the number was 60%.

The enthusiasm gap may be explained by the fact that most Democratic primary voters agree with Bernie on the issues, even when they voted for Biden. According to exit polls, a wide majority of primary voters - roughly three-quarters - said that the economic system in this country is unfair. That includes about a third describing it as "very unfair."

Although young voters remained loyal to Bernie, exit polls showed that white voters, union voters, and college graduates went for Biden. Sanders won all three groups in 2016.

In the March 10 primaries, Biden carried college graduates 51% to 44% for Sanders, whites 51% to 45%, and union members - almost one-third of the primary electorate - by 54% to 42%.

Here in Washington state, Sanders led by a little more than 2,000 votes on election night. In King County, however, Bernie was more than 4,000 votes ahead. Biden, on the other hand, leads in Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

Because of Washington's vote-by-mail system, the ballots counted on election night are typically the first ones mailed in. Vote percentages will almost certainly change as more ballots are counted in the coming days. (New vote counts put Biden in the lead with 35% to Sanders' 33.6%.)

According to the count on election night, Biden had won 800 convention delegates (out of the 1,991 need to win the nomination), Sanders had won 660, and other candidates had 103 delegates.

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