Young voters turn to Sanders


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders waves to the crowd during the photo spray before the start of the Democratic debate on Saturday, Nov. 14. The debate took place in Carnegie Hall on Drake University’s campus. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Matthew Jack, [email protected]


Hillary Clinton has identified herself as a champion for women’s rights, citing gender issues such as pay inequality and reproductive rights as key parts of her campaign, but that hasn’t solidified the support from all women.

Many young women are swayed by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ consistent voting record and financial transparency, several millennial-age women supporting him and experts said in a series of interviews with The Daily Iowan.

“Bernie’s grass-roots efforts reflect an America I want to live in, one where everyone has the choice to have their voice heard, rather than being silenced by big businesses and corrupt politicians,” said University of Iowa freshman Anna Gudenkauf.

Millennials, a demographic that has had historically low voter turnout rates, have helped Sanders close the double-digit gap between him and Clinton to well within the margin of error in a January Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll.

In the 2012 election, 45 percent of registered voters ages 18-29 turned out to vote, in contrast to 72 percent of voters over 65, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

David Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, believes the influence of Clinton’s gender on millennials doesn’t overshadow their desire for social and economic change.

“… They feel like he’s calling for greater change and represents something better than she does,” he said. “They may not see helping someone become the ‘first woman president’ as as much of a big deal as they do helping secure health care for all.”

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From the series of interviews, there was a strong consensus about the specific policies of Sanders that drew their attention away rom Clinton, including that of Iowa State University senior Rena Knutson.

She cited Sanders’ consistent voting record on social issues such as civil and LGBT rights as the element of his candidacy that won her support.

“I think these are issues that you don’t need to evolve on, and that’s an excuse I’ve heard for Hillary,” she said.

Yepsen wrote in an email Sanders’ authenticity has resonated with many voters — not just young women — which is crucial to drawing their support.

Clinton has also weathered controversy over her career that has damaged her public image.

“Some voters have trouble deciding who the real Hillary Clinton is,” Yepsen said, who covered politics for the Des Moines Register for more than 30 years.

That belief wasn’t limited to millennial women.

Gerene Denning, a former Johnson Country Democrats chairwoman and longtime Iowa political operative, echoed Yepsen’s reference of Sanders’ charisma.

“When he interacts with people, including women, he just shows a very funny, compassionate side,” she said. “He seems to be more naturally able to hook somebody.”

Denning, a Sanders supporter, also compared him with Eleanor Roosevelt as a women’s rights advocate, and to then-Sen. Barack Obama in his ability to connect with diverse demographics during his 2008 campaign.

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