If you’re wondering which Democratic candidate draws the most enthusiasm from community residents, a quick stroll through Isla Vista will answer your question. Bernie Sanders bumper stickers are by far the most common on parked cars, with little to no cars displaying support for his rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton. Though such an informal survey is by no means authoritative data, the numbers show that throughout the nation college students overwhelmingly favor Sanders. In the New Hampshire primary, exit polls show that Sanders won 83 percent of the youth vote. In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton admitted, “I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people.”
Despite the staggering amount of youth support for Sanders, polls still show that Hillary Clinton is still the favorite among Democrats nationally. According to a Real Clear Politics polling average, Hillary Clinton has a 13.3 percent lead amongst all Democrats. So how has Sanders managed to win the hearts of college voters?
First of all, college students tend to be more leftist than other age groups. According to Gallup, 69 percent of 18-29-year-olds were willing to vote for a socialist candidate for president, while only 37 percent of the 50–64 age group were willing to do so.
In addition, voters tend to see Sanders as the more authentic and trustworthy liberal candidate, while Clinton voted in support of the Iraq War in 2003 and supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which outlawed gay marriage on a federal level in 1996. Clinton only changed her mind with regard to gay rights in 2013, when for the first time polls began to indicate that more than 50 percent of the country believed that gays should have the right to marry. Meanwhile, Sanders voted against the Iraq War and supported gay rights long before it was politically convenient to do so. Not only do Sanders’s viewpoints align more with those of college students, but it seems as if viewpoints are based more on principle than cold pragmatism.
In addition, Sanders speaks to the issues young voters care about without resorting to gimmicky, infantilizing campaign tactics. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s website features articles such as this. The article is a series of GIFs and images that clearly aim to copy the style of websites popular amongst millennials such as Buzzfeed. It reeks of insincerity, like an old woman attempting to connect with her teenage daughter and her friends by using youth slang. It does not seem like an attempt to treat college voters like adults, instead delivering serious policy on the same platform where most college students look at cute pictures of puppies.
Meanwhile, Sanders takes a different approach. He is focused on delivering his message with no frills attached. When a New York Times interviewer asked Sanders a question comparing his hair to Hillary Clinton’s, Sanders responded with, “I don’t mean to be rude here. I am running for president of the United States on serious issues, okay? Do you have serious questions?”
It’s not a mystery why Sanders has won over college voters in Isla Vista and across the nation. Sanders has addressed issues that Millennials care about for decades while Clinton was busy siding with conservatives. He continues to speak about issues such as income inequality and student debt without condescension. College voters see that Sanders is the more authentic liberal in the race, and no amount of GIFs is going to change that.