Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Thursday attempted to deflect a journalist's critique about his lack of support among younger voters by suggesting enthusiasm for Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign stemmed from youthful naivete.
"You would be the youngest president in history, and yet you don't have a majority of young voters in this country according to polls," said "CBS This Morning" anchor Tony Dokoupil to the 37-year-old Democratic hopeful. "Is there a way in which you're out of touch with your own generation?"
"It's certainly the case that many of the younger voters are attracted to, for example the Sanders campaign definitely has more young voters. I was a big fan of Bernie Sanders when I was 18 years old," Buttigieg replied before adding moments later that unlike Sanders, he has not proposed eliminating student debt.
“the sanders campaign definitely has more young voters. i was a big fan of bernie sanders when i was 18 years old.”
— mike casca (@cascamike) December 12, 2019
Dokoupil's question followed a number of recent polls showing Buttigieg's low-single-digit support among voters under the age of 45—a large chunk of the electorate.
"You're at 3% and 4% among people under the age of 44 in South Carolina, it's almost as bad as minority voters," Dokoupil said, referring to Buttigieg's recent polling about black Americans, 2% of whom supported him in a recent Quinnipiac survey and 4% of whom favored him according to an Economist/YouGov poll last week.
As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, Buttigieg also garnered just 6% of the support of Californians under age 45 according to a CNN poll—a day after Quinnipiac released another survey showing him with 2% support among people under 35, nationwide.
In those same polls, Sanders had the support of 32% and 52% of the youngest age brackets, respectively.
Buttigieg's dismissal of the opinions of Americans ranging in age from 18 to 45 was evidence of "his abject contempt for young people," according to Jacobin journalist Luke Savage.
Pete Buttigieg may only be 37, but his abject contempt for young people and insatiable desire to impress the grownups couldn't be more obvious https://t.co/k97rIlCLds
— Luke Savage (@LukewSavage) December 12, 2019
Recently a number of political observers have surmised the reasons behind Buttigieg's lack of support among young voters, who, "Rising" anchor Krystal Ball suggested Wednesday, might have been expected to express enthusiasm for "the guy running on generational change."
The recent polling "provides a stunning window into the generational divide that has truly cleaved the party in two," Ball said. "The progressive and anti-establishment candidates are garnering a full 79% of the under-35 vote...and honestly it makes complete sense."
Think of when this generation came of age. Think of the events which forged us. Many of us were radicalized by the Bush-era neocons lying us into endless war for oil and profit with establishment Democrats like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton carrying their water. Those lucky enough to have the financial wherewithal to go to college thought they were playing by the rules and doing the right thing, only to find themselves crushed with debt.
Is it any wonder that young voters are completely, thoroughly done with anything that smacks of politics as usual?
The generations whose political opinions were represented in the recent polling currently owe more than $620 billion in student loan debt collectively. Fewer millennials—people ranging in age from about 23 to 38—are able to afford home ownership than baby boomers did at their age, and unaffordability has been cited as a key reason many millennials are delaying or avoiding starting families. And despite spending money in roughly the same ways their parents did, millennials are much more likely to struggle financially.
As Molly Roberts wrote in the Washington Post last month, young voters' lack of enthusiasm for Buttigieg likely stems from his perceived lack of interest in leveling the playing field to benefit his own generation.
"We've all been taught to do what Buttigieg did: scramble toward success through accumulation—of degrees and other bona fides but also of money, of homes and other items, of anything that we can hold up to prove that we lived up to the high hopes of our own parents," Roberts wrote. "And we're afraid that once we make it, there will be no there there—that the whole thing is empty."
"Buttigieg hasn't managed to convince many young Americans that he stands for anything other than ambition, with a stale side of duty," she added, "and until he does, those Americans will see in him the scariest thing of all: the hollowness of our own achievement culture staring back at us from the mirror."