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Bernie Sanders revved up the crowd at Penn State University last week. (Photo: Penn State/flickr/cc)

Bernie Sanders revved up the crowd at Penn State University last week. (Photo: Penn State/flickr/cc)

Millennials Poll Shows Sanders' Revolution Reshaping US Electorate

"He's not moving a party to the left. He's moving a generation to the left," says pollster

Deirdre Fulton

Bernie Sanders is changing the face of American politics, a new poll from Harvard's Institute of Politics suggests.

According to the survey released Monday, Sanders remains the most popular presidential candidate for so-called millennials between the ages of 18-29, 54 percent of whom view him favorably, compared to 31 percent who harbor unfavorable views.

Just 37 percent of respondents say they see Sanders rival Hillary Clinton favorably, compared to 53 percent who do not.

More importantly, regardless of how Sanders fares in Tuesday's primaries, or in the race for the nomination overall, there's little doubt that the senator from Vermont is making a lasting impact, polling director John Della Volpe told the Washington Post on Monday.

"He's not moving a party to the left. He's moving a generation to the left," Della Volpe said of Sanders. "Whether or not he's winning or losing, it's really that he's impacting the way in which a generation—the largest generation in the history of America—thinks about politics."

The poll offers a clear picture of how millennials' support for progressive ideals—those embedded in Sanders' platform—has increased in the last year.

In 2016, 48 percent of respondents thought "Basic health insurance is a right for all people," up from 45 percent last year and 42 percent the year before that.

Similarly, 47 percent of respondents said this year that they believe "Basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that government should provide to those unable to afford them." This percentage grew from 43 percent in 2015.

And whereas in 2015, 40 percent of young respondents said "The government should spend more to reduce poverty," 45 percent of respondents said so in 2016.

Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times, "Although the poll found broad disdain for the GOP candidates, it also revealed problems for establishment Democrats, if they hadn't grasped that from this year’s tumultuous primary season."

The paper continued:

By 48% to 16%, young voters said politics today was not up to meeting the challenges facing the country.  By 54% to 11%, they said elected officials do not have the same priorities as they do. Six in 10 said elected officials are motivated by selfishness.

Only 15% said the country was headed in the right direction, a drop of 8 points from one year ago.

Still, the Harvard survey shows that in the last year, preference for Democratic control of the White House nearly doubled, with two-thirds of respondents saying they want a Democrat to win the 2016 election. What's more, for the first time in the past five years of Harvard's polls, significantly more young people called themselves Democrats (40%) than said they were independent (36%).

The Washington Post adds: "Della Volpe cautions that it's impossible to predict how millennials' views will shift in the future, but people change parties only rarely after about age 30, researchers have found. If that pattern holds for the millennial generation, then Democrats could be indebted for decades to a politician who has rejected a formal association with the Democratic Party for his entire career until now."

It would be hasty to ascribe the shift totally to Sanders, Della Volpe said, "but there is no question that there is a significant part of the electorate that he has woken up and is organizing."

The poll surveyed 3,183 Americans ages 18 to 29 from March 18 to April 3. It has a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points.


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