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Sanders is beating Obama’s 2008 youth vote record. And the primary’s not even over.

Bernie Sanders has gotten more votes from young people than Barack Obama did in 2008, according to a new analysis.
Bernie Sanders has gotten more votes from young people than Barack Obama did in 2008, according to a new analysis.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders isn't just winning the youth vote — he's crushing it.

A new analysis from Tufts University shows that Sanders has now surpassed Barack Obama's 2008 Democratic primary totals among young people in the 25 states where we can draw a comparison — whether you count by raw vote total or percentage of the overall vote share.

In 2008, the press marveled that Obama beat Hillary Clinton by 60 to 35 points among voters under 30, racking up around 2.2 million young votes throughout the primary.

Now Sanders is beating Clinton by a 71-to-28 margin, receiving more than 2.4 million votes from young voters in the 25 states we can compare, according to numbers compiled by Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts.

"The energy that young voters have kept up throughout the primary has been incredible," Kawashima-Ginsberg says in an interview. "It's been amazing to see."

Sanders's insurgency is being powered by young people, who are thrilling to his message in what looks like historic numbers.

About 25 percent of Sanders's votes are from people under 30

A chart released Wednesday by Matt Karp, a Princeton professor and Jacobin contributor, shows that Sanders outperformed Obama among young voters in 15 of 20 primary states, based on exit poll data from the states that have voted thus far:

It's worth noting that Sanders won the youth vote even in places like North Carolina, a state that Clinton won by 15 points.

Sanders has won 9.9 million votes overall throughout the primary, according to RealClearPolitics. That means somewhere in the range of a quarter of his total votes have come from young voters. By comparison, just under 10 percent of Clinton's votes in the primary have come from young voters.

Tufts didn't have ready data on how the youth turnout for Sanders and Obama compares to every prior contest. But the 2008 primary saw more than a doubling of youth turnout from 2000, and voter turnout was generally tepid in the 2004 Democratic primary, at least suggesting that Sanders is likely the most popular primary candidate among young voters this century. (Republicans have seen consistently fewer young people participate in their presidential primaries, according to Kawashima-Ginsberg.)

Youth vote for Sanders has shown no sign of slowing down

For weeks, if not months, news outlets (including Vox) have published stories saying that the Democratic primary is effectively over because of the harsh reality of delegate math.

And it's true that it is all but certain Sanders is going to lose the race. But young people, it seems, haven't been deterred from the polls by Sanders's long odds.

As Kawashima-Ginsberg notes, the youth vote for Sanders has shown essentially no signs of slowing down even as the media called the race effectively decided.

At the beginning of the race in New Hampshire, Sanders won 25,000 youth votes, which made up about 19 percent of the electorate. But just last month in Indiana, he won about 140,000 youth votes; again, they made up about 19 percent of the total.

"We'll have to see how it goes in California, where he's called [for] youth to campaign for him," Kawashima-Ginsberg says. "But it's supported him this far."

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