The Student Blog Post series invites students from my PLS 321: Electoral Process course to author their own blogs about recent election events.
Bernie Sanders, the junior United States Senator from Vermont, and the longest-serving Independent in the Senate, has been coined as the Millennials Candidate. With his ultra-left wing policies, dubbed as Democratic Socialist by Sanders himself, supporting the legalisation of marijuana, making public university tuition free, and his plan to bring minimum wage up to $15 an hour, he is quite appealing to the younger generation, specifically college students, who tend to be more liberal. You cant log onto Facebook or Twitter or even Reddit without seeing an influx of posts discussing how Bernie Sanders is a revolutionary, and how he is the most qualified presidential candidate. It is easy to jump onto the bandwagon of undying support for a candidate, but to ignore the things that do not coincide with the rosy picture painted of them is dangerous. So, do millennials really know what Sanders stands for, or are they just following their peers?
In a study conducted by The Pew Research Center, titled What Americans Know: 1989-2007, the researchers evaluated political knowledge based off of certain categories, which were age, gender, geographic location, level of education, income, and party identification. The study found that 18-29 year olds were 56% likely to have low political knowledge, with only 15% likely to have high political knowledge. The study concluded that while the times are changing, level of political knowledge does not–it stays low–despite new technologies and ways to learn about politics. Thus, looking at these results, it can be reasonably inferred that maybe millennials do not actually know what they are talking about in terms of politics, and that maybe their support for Sanders is blind.
Now lets apply The Pew Research Centers study to what millennials think of Bernie Sanders versus what Sanders political stances actually are. One of the biggest and most compelling arguments that is the consensus among college students for Bernie Sanders is that he has never wavered in any of his political beliefs–or that he is not a flip-flopper. But, upon further inspection, it can be learned that Sanders has voted in such a way that directly contradicts his current policies and rhetoric used in speeches and rallies. For example, Bernie Sanders has never once voted against a federal budget increase for the military, despite him discussing how he wants to lower military spending in his rallies. Hes also voted to fund all military intervention following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, although urging for less US military involvement in the Middle East. Sanders also subscribes to the notion that migrant workers hurt U.S. jobs/the economy and is against an open borders policy, despite being very pro-immigration reform during rallies and debates. Lastly, despite calling himself a socialist, Sanders voted to cut Food Stamps by $8.7 billion in 2014, a program that feeds roughly 46 million Americans a year. How do these large discrepancies in political stances make it past the minds of so many supporters of Sanders? Do millennials not know these things because they are not educated, or because they are simply jumping on the bandwagon without doing their own critical research?
Perhaps the answer to these questions lie within two other studies– the Columbia and Michigan studies. The Columbia Study concluded that people tend to vote with their social group, while the Michigan study furthered that research and concluded that the biggest influencer in a persons vote is party identification. So, maybe millennials are all supporting Sanders because that is simply the position that their social group has taken. Or maybe millennials are supporting Sanders because college-aged students are the most liberal people in the country who overwhelmingly vote Democrat.
In conclusion, we, as millennial voters, must be able to remain nonpartisan and critical when evaluating candidates. Just because everyone around you is gunning for a specific candidate, does not mean you should follow suit without doing your own research, no matter your party identification. Politicians stances are not always as they seem.
Emily Croucher is a third-year senior Agriculture student at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona. She enjoys American politics, conspiracy theories, horses, and hopes to attend law school upon graduation.