If you are reading this, you’ve been following the political Primaries and have heard many pundits and news media scratching their head while reporting Bernie Sanders receiving 84% of all young people’s votes under 30, including women–versus 14% for Hillary. In fact, Bernie is getting the majority of women 30-44 as well at 53% (please note, these numbers are based on Iowa primaries, New Hampshire numbers stronger.) There is even a website dedicated to students for Bernie, studentsforberniesanders.com. You might ask how a 74-year old resonate so well with the young people. As The New World Marketplace expert on women and millennials, it’s not that hard for me to figure out why. It’s all about cultural shifts, beliefs and values. And I’ve been writing about these for years—let me explain….
Bernie’s message is completely aligned with beliefs and values of Gen Y (millennials) and older Gen Zs. Youth culture values trust and authenticity and you could not find a candidate more authentic than Sanders. Trump’s followers, similarly, trust him and find him authentic because he speaks his mind, but his appeal with the young cohort is insignificant due to the values he represents and the cultural gap. But clearly, both these men represent the anti-establishment, anti-super-pack, that has a very large appeal these days.
Why do you think our youngest cohort find Bernie very authentic and “real”? Maybe his average, middle-class image and lifestyle, not polished, not rich…fighting for the same causes since the 60s…not being backed by any super pack…the list goes on. All this has afforded him an amazingly successful small donor fundraising operation and an army of volunteers.
If you remember, I’ve always called Millennials the Harry Potter Generation…standing up for your beliefs and rights, distrust of those in power, equality for all, feeling personally responsible to make a difference in the world. Millennials in general, don’t trust Corporations and establishment. Younger Millennials and older Gen Z’s are Hunger Games generation, Divergent/Insurgent series, etc….they wish to be the one leading others into a revolution to fight against the corrupt system. Bernie’s is all about fighting establishment government and establishment politics. His campaign calls for a political revolution, which has a romantic appeal with the younger generation. How many older people do you see in the front lines of any historical revolutions? This generation expects change, and expects this change to be truly meaningful. They are also far more educated than previous generations, so free public college for everyone speaks to their hearts. Bernie keeps talking about millions of young people drawn in debt because they seeked higher education. This is a fact, and music to their ears.
As Bill Clinton himself said on an interview about Bernie’s success with young people, “the system’s rigged against you. Vote for me and I’ll break up the big banks, tax the billionaires and give you free college.”
True that. The Millennials college experience was during the Bush era, war and recession. They didn’t get the college dream that once I graduate, I get a job and start making a living. They ended up with gigantic student debts and 40% unemployed and/or moving back with their parents. (click here to read more on this.)
There is an important cultural transformation taking place in the youth minds, and it’s all about trust. They have lost trust in politicians and corporations. The values they seek and believe in are authenticity, transparency, personal growth, relationships, causes, social consciousness and equality of all races, genders, religions, even sexual preferences. So when Bernie exposes campaign corruption, greed of Wall Street and their crimes gone unpunished, and virtually all the wealth going to the top 1%, the youth relates and cheers. When Bernie says he wants a government and working economy that works for everyone, not just the top 1%, he is standing up for a future that the younger generation never experienced after college.
Whether you are blue or red in your politics, you should know that these are the values that are aligned with youth culture. Bottom line: Which candidate better understands my needs, and which one do I trust.
Now, you may ask why women 30-44? Why is Bernie leading by 11 points with this group when we are finally getting our very first qualified, establishment woman candidate? I think it may be for the same reasons Cheryl Sandberg got criticized by so many women for her Lean In book (click here to read my take on Lean In). She was considered an elite woman who never went through any of the struggles that majority of women face in the workplace, yet was advising them to man up and toughen up…how can she understand my work/life struggles? I think the same applies to Hillary. She is elite. She is part of the top 1%. Can she really understand my needs as an average woman?
Of course, just because Bernie appeals more to young people and independents, including those who did not trust politics to even get involved, does not mean he will win—nor is this blog an endorsement for any candidate or any party. But I will say that our youth culture is yearning for a political revolution and our current political process and values do not resonate with them. On either side. Trust is gone for them and they have not been voting. So if nothing else, I’m enjoying seeing higher participation and enthusiasm from our young Americans. I think it’s time to see the same cultural transformation in politics as we have seen, and continue to experience, in The New World Marketplace, and gain people’s trust back–of all ages. Hey, at the very least, this race will be interesting (and entertaining) to watch on both sides.