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Bernie Sanders has an 11-point advantage over Hillary Clinton among voters under 35

Younger voters say they'll turn out for Sanders. Will they?
Younger voters say they'll turn out for Sanders. Will they?
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders, the oldest candidate in the presidential race, is winning over the youngest voters.

A new poll of 18- to 35-year-olds from Rock the Vote and USA Today finds that they prefer Sanders to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, 46 percent to 35 percent.

It's not yet clear if the poll respondents are going to turn out to vote for Sanders. But it's the latest confirmation that millennials are unfazed by the prospect of voting for a self-described democratic socialist, and that Sanders's messages on education and the economy are resonating among younger voters.

Millennials are fine with socialism

Bernie Sanders on the set of The Nightly Show
Sanders's message is resonating with younger Democratic voters.
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Comedy Central

Sanders's campaign has caused dictionary searches for "socialism" to spike. And for millennials, it doesn't seem to be much of a drawback. A poll in May from YouGov found that young people think nearly as highly of socialism as capitalism, and that they're more likely to see "capitalist" as an insult than "socialist."

The poll didn't ask about socialism specifically. But in December, the Harvard Institute of Politics released its own poll of 18- to 29-year-olds, and found that Sanders held a similar advantage over Clinton: 41 percent to 35 percent. Only 9 percent said Sanders's socialism made them less likely to vote for him.

Sanders had the biggest leads among younger voters, white voters, and those enrolled in college. Black and Hispanic young people, as well as those between 25 and 29, preferred Clinton.

The Rock the Vote/USA Today poll found a similar split. Sanders had the advantage among millennials as a whole, but nonwhite 18- to 35-year-olds were evenly split between Sanders and Clinton.

Now the question is whether these voters will show up to the polls. The dramatic, contested 2008 primaries nearly doubled turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds compared with 2000, the last cycle when both parties had contested primaries. It's not yet clear if a Sanders–Clinton contest on the left, and the emergence of Donald Trump on the right, will have the same magnetic power.

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