Move Over 'Berniebros': A Wave of Young Women Is Boosting Bernie Sanders

Yes, there's a big gender gap among young voters backing Sanders, but it's not among men

A new poll finds that young female voters support Bernie Sanders by an expansive margin. Credit: Charlie Leight/Getty

The media of late has been banging on the drum of the "Berniebro." Don't let that man-bun fool you, America: The Berniebro is an unrepentant mansplainer, who backs Sanders with a level of devotion matched only by his self-righteousness: "The Berniebro knows a secret," the Atlantic mocked. "The only reason you, and every other Facebook user, haven’t supported Bernie yet is your own willful ignorance." The Berniebro is also said to be an avatar of latent sexism among progressive men toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As Salon argued, "A chunk of Sanders support with his young male cohort comes from guys who really don’t cotton well to the idea of women in power." 

For all the attention this band of unpleasant men with mommy issues attracts, you might assume they're core to Sanders' support among young progressives. But a new poll from Rock the Vote is turning that conventional wisdom on its head. Yes, there's a big gender gap among young voters backing Bernie Sanders. But it's not among men. Voting-age women under the age of 35 now favor Sanders by 20 percentage points over Clinton. You read that right: Young female voters support Bernie Sanders by an expansive margin. 

The poll, published Monday in USA Today, was conducted among more than 1,000 young adults by the polling firm Ipsos. Sanders leads broadly among voting-age millennial Democrats and Independents: 46 percent to 35 percent for Clinton. But Sanders' advantage among young, voting-age men — a modest 4 percentage points — is barely outside the margin of error. Far from being a drag on on Clinton's candidacy, this poll suggests, young men are the demographic keeping her in the hunt among millennials.

For anyone who has worked the crowd at a Sanders rally on a college campus, these results are not entirely surprising. At a rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, last October, by far the most enthusiastic Sanders supporters I met were young women. A 19-year-old African-American freshman named Aiyha Abdelbagi — who wore a light-blue hijab and pink Bernie '16 button to the rally — gave a typical answer when asked why she was supporting Sanders: "He's for the people, especially college students and African-Americans," she told me. "His answer on the Black Lives Matter question at the [first] Democratic debate put me on board, confirmed everything for me."

When I pressed Abdelbagi on why she hadn't cottoned to Clinton, she shot me a smile. "Just because I’m a girl?" she said. "Just because she [Clinton] is a girl doesn’t mean I’m going to support her. Nope, not at all. That's not what feminism is about."