During his first campaign stop in New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., spoke for just under a hour, telling supporters in the crowded conference center that with their help, he is ready to finish what he started in 2016 and take the White House in 2020.
The Sanders campaign has said this time around it needs to get more support in Southern states, and generally to reach more minority voters. But Sanders said last week that wasn’t true for all ages, during a visit to the state that gave him his first primary victory in 2016.
"That victory right here in New Hampshire led us to win victories in 21 other states around the country, 13 million votes, over 1,700 delegates at the Democratic convention and to me, mostly importantly, more votes from young people — black, white, Latino, Asian American and Native American — than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined," Sanders said.
Sanders made a similar claim during a CNN town hall in late February when he said, "We ended up winning among younger people. More votes from young African Americans, Latinos, Asian American, Native Americans than Clinton and Trump combined."
This seems to complicate a prevailing narrative that Sanders failed to connect with minority voters during the 2016 election. And it would mean a growing group of voters went for him in a big way. We decided to check if his claim holds water.
VTDigger analyzed 2016 primary data and reached out to polling experts across the country. We found while Sanders did receive more votes from the under-30 set than Clinton and Trump combined, it’s impossible to know -- for us and for Sanders -- whether more minority youth voted for him than the other two candidates.
While his quote in New Hampshire could be read as saying that young people of various ethnicities together voted for him in larger numbers than Trump and Clinton combined, it’s clear from the CNN quote that the claim also applies to each ethnicity on its own.
Arianna Jones, a Sanders campaign spokesperson, told us the claim was based on an exit polling report from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and a survey by the University of Chicago’s Black Youth Project.
The data compiled by CIRCLE estimates that in all the presidential primaries and caucuses, Sanders received more than 2 million total youth votes -- 400,000 more than the estimated combined 1.6 million votes for Clinton and Trump. However, these numbers are not broken down by race or ethnicity.
In the University of Chicago study, which asked more than 1,750 people between the ages of 18 and 30 which of the three candidates they support, 60 percent of young African-Americans, 69 percent of young Asian-Americans, 68 percent of the young Latino vote, and 59 percent of young whites said they support Sanders.
The survey, conducted in June 2016, also states that among young African-Americans who said they voted in the primaries, 54 percent reported voting for Sanders, but the study does not provide additional information explaining how many said they voted for Clinton or Trump.
"Our data indicate that in contrast to the overwhelming support Hillary Clinton received from older African American voters, the majority of African American young adult voters supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Party primary," the study says.
We reached out to the University of Chicago and a spokesperson told us the researchers did not validate that these young people actually voted in a primary.
"They suggest viewing this question as one of measuring support more than actual votes," the spokesperson said.
We asked Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of CIRCLE at Tufts University, about the Sanders claim. She said CIRCLE also has no way of knowing whether or not his statement is true or false.
"The underlying data used to calculate the cumulative youth vote for the primaries in 2016 — exit poll and vote total — does not allow us to break out the youth vote estimates by race," Kawashima-Ginsberg said. "So we have no way of confirming or rejecting the assertion made by Sen. Sanders."
Exit polls shed some light on the situation, particularly the youth black vote.
An analysis of exit polls in 25 primary states conducted by NBC News shows that Sanders received a combined 52 percent of the votes of African-Americans under 30, compared with 47 percent for Clinton.
Based on CNN exit polls from 27 states, 52 percent of black women under 30 voted for Sanders while 47 percent voted for Clinton. Among black men of the same age, 50 percent voted for Sanders and 48 percent for Clinton.
The CNN data show 31 percent of Latino voters under 30 voted for Clinton, while 69 percent voted for Sanders.
We could not find exit poll data breaking down Trump’s youth vote by race or ethnicity. CIRCLE reported that based on exit polls from GOP primaries in 21 states, Trump only won the youth vote in 11. CIRCLE estimates that Trump received over 800,000 of the total 2.3 million votes cast by young people in those Republican contests.
So while there’s no data conclusively proving Sanders right, we also didn’t find anything proving him definitely wrong. But numbers on voter demographics from Super Tuesday gave us pause.
The combined exit polls from Democratic primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia found that 61 percent of young black voters cast a ballot for Clinton while 36 percent voted for Sanders.
In those states, 60 percent of young Latino voters supported Sanders and 39 percent Clinton.
Sanders did get a big boost on Super Tuesday with young white people: 62 percent of that demographic voted for him and 37 percent voted for Clinton.
The Super Tuesday losses among young black voters could have been outweighed by large blocks of those voters elsewhere. In New York, for example, 81 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted for Sanders. So did Sanders specifically win the youth black vote?
Gary Langer, the exit poll expert for ABC News, told us he does not have the data necessary to make a definitive ruling on whether or not more young black people voted for Sanders than for Clinton and Trump.
However, on whether Sanders won more nonwhite young voters than both the other candidates, he said: "Eyeballing it only, it looks possible."
Sanders said that he got "more votes from young people — black, white, Latino, Asian-American and Native American — than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined."
It is true that Sanders received more votes from 18- to 30-year-old voters than Clinton and Trump combined, but the claim that more young people from minority groups voted for him is unclear based on current data.
The campaign’s reliance on a survey showing young minorities’ support for the Vermont senator is not the same as voting data for those population segments.
We rate this claim as Mostly True.
Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, "Donald Trump and Young Voters," June, 2016.
Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago report, "GenForward June 2016 Survey Report," June 2016.
NBC News, "Huge Split Between Older and Younger Blacks in the Democratic Primary," May 28, 2016.
CNN, "Fact Check: Did Sanders win more young voters in 2016 than Clinton and Trump combined?" February 27, 2019.
The Texas Tribune, "Hispanic Texans on pace to become largest population group in state by 2022," June 21, 2018.
The Daily Texan, "Texas youth voter turnout on Super Tuesday rivals 2008," March 8, 2016.
Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, "African American Youth Support Secretary Clinton, Shape Results in South Carolina," March 8, 2016.
Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, "Young Voters at Core of Sanders Upset in Michigan; Republican Youth Participation Continues to Rise," March 9, 2016.
Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, "Young Women and Non-Black Youth Favored Sanders on Super Tuesday; Issue Priorities Drive Differences in Vote Choice by Age," March 31, 2016.
The Washington Post, "Young voters are failing Bernie Sanders, just as they’ve failed so many before," February 22, 2016.
The Washington Post, "More young people voted for Bernie Sanders than Trump and Clinton combined — by a lot," June 20, 2016.
San Francisco Chronicle, "Young voters’ low turnout led to Sanders’ big loss," June 9, 2016.
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