For those who get their news from the corporate media, it may seem like Clinton has all but secured this election’s Democratic presidential nomination. Media outlets such as CNN love to release monthly nomination polls, regardless of the representative sample sizes. And CNN’s polling constituency almost always under-samples younger voters, typically leaving the margin of error so high that results from voters ages 18-49 are not reported due to statistical irrelevancy. Various media outlets tout polls such as the one I just mentioned as proof of Clinton’s sure victory in the Democratic primaries. Another common theme from the corporate media in to use national polls as a metric of determining the probability of candidates winning the nominations, when national polls have been historically meaningless in primaries.
However, when you actually look into the data of the early primary states, you will find that the Democratic nomination is far from secured. New polls in the first three states to vote in the Democratic primary (Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina respectively) bode well for Bernie Sanders’ chances in the early voting states. The newly released CBS/YouGov polls have Sanders’ up by 14 points in New Hampshire, down by only 5 points in Iowa, and while he is still down 36 points in South Carolina, Clinton’s lead has been cut by 11 points since the last CBS/YouGov poll.
Looking deeper into the data bodes even better for Sanders’ chances: In the NH poll, only 35% of those polled for the Democratic primary were under age 45. In the Iowa poll that number was only 30%, and only 14.7% of voters polled were ages 18-29. To find a historical precedent for what these numbers mean, we only have to look back to 2008. If this year’s age 18-29 voter turnout for the Iowa Democratic caucus at least matches the 2008 numbers (22% of total), it would mean the recent YouGov polls under sampled younger voters, which are the backbone of Sanders’ campaign. According to the new Iowa poll, 71% of Democratic primary voters aged 18-29 support Bernie Sanders. This is even better than Obama’s 2008 numbers, where he received the support of 57% of Iowa Democratic caucus voters aged 18-29.
It appears that this cycle’s Democratic nomination will be decided by voter turnout among young voters and first time caucus goers. When you think about Bernie Sanders’ supporters, one of the first adjectives that comes to mind is disillusioned. Many of them had given up on the political process. These people are as likely to be first time voters as any group. Another interesting result from the recent polls is that 76% of Sanders’ voters say they are enthusiastic in their support for him, compared to 49% of Clinton backers who say that the same. Will this enthusiasm translate into victory for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary? That’s up for us to decide.