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Will Latino Millennials Upend the Democratic Establishment?

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Latina and Latino millennials could make up as much as 18% of the California Democratic Primary electorate. And they could push the Latino vote for Bernie Sanders to more than 2:1.

You read that right.

Hispanics 18-34 might make up nearly one fifth of all Democratic primary voters in California. Not 18% of the Latinx voters. Not 18% of the non-white voting block. Not Latina/o voters making up 18% of the electorate. 18% of the electorate as a whole.

Nearly seven million hispanic people are eligible to vote in California; 63% are under the age of 45 and 36% are 18-29.  Eighteen percent of Democratic primary voters as a whole could come from a group that has gone for Bernie Sanders nationally at a rate of nearly 2:1 so far, perhaps even 3:1 in places like Chicago where Sanders won the hispanic vote statewide and carried majority Latino wards by a double digit margin.

In Another Path to Victory for Bernie Sanders I pegged Sanders’ realistic ceiling in California around 25%. This is not a forecast that he will actually get there. He may not make it beyond April 26 in a viable position. A ceiling is a ceiling and a floor is a floor. Neither demographics or the past are determinative; they can only give us inklings of what may be.

Regardless of whether Latinx millennials upend Democratic and American politics this election, by making up almost half of the largest growing segment of the electorate, according to Pew Research Center, it is almost certain that hispanics born after Ronald Reagan took office will have an increasingly out-sized impact on elections well beyond 2016.

California by 25%?

I’ll start with a brief few paragraphs on some of the other factors that make me think Sanders could hit +25 in California. Depending on the future of the race, I will likely take a deeper dive with some of those factors over time.

First, the bulk of Clinton’s support in California is bunched up in Los Angeles and in the Bay area according to FiveThirtyEight’s Facebook Primary numbers, but Sanders is also strong in those areas, extremely strong in the Bay area, in fact. While Clinton nearly triples her average “likes” in the 94110 zip code that includes San Francisco’s Mission District, the same area is Sanders’ top fundraising zip code outside of Vermont, and he does actually triple the number of “likes” on Facebook that he averages nationwide.

Second, there are still two months remaining until California votes; Sanders performs best when he gets lots of time to know voters in campaign events all over a state. Provided that Sanders campaigns in California the way he has in Michigan and Wisconsin and currently is in Pennsylvania and New York, the rest of California looks even better for Sanders than Michigan outside of Detroit, Wisconsin outside Milwaukee, and Upstate New York.

Third, Asian voters in Washington, Hawai’i, and in California specific polling appear to be going for Sanders rather strongly. Asians make up nearly 40% of Hawai’i’s population; the Aloha State went for Sanders by 40%. In last week’s USC/L.A. Times poll of Californians, likely Asian voters preferred Sanders already by eight points. As I’ve noted elsewhere, two months out and according to the same poll, all racialized groups have a more favorable view of Sanders than they do of Clinton. This gives him a good deal of room to grow his share of the vote there.

Fourth, West Coast progressivism is real. A $15 an hour minimum wage just passed. Medical and decriminalized marijuana have been around for years. Gay marriage was voted in years before 2015’s Supreme Court ruling. California is the seventh most unionized state by percentage of workers. Berkeley. Humboldt. Washington. Oregon. Those who think California will vote more like Arizona or Nevada than Washington, Oregon, and Hawai’i are telling themselves comforting stories with very little evidence in any data beyond Clinton’s win very early in the 2008 race. That win happened on Super Tuesday (February 5th) with almost no real campaigning taking place in the state.

Latina and Latino Millennials by the Numbers and More

In the 2008 Democratic primary in California, Latina (16%) and Latino (13%) voters made up 29% of the electorate, according to exit polling; they went for Clinton 2:1. California’s Latino population has continued to grow in the eight years since, overtaking the white population as the plurality in California sometime in 2014. The median age for hispanics in California is 29. The median age for whites is 45. Over a million and a half Latina/o eligible voters have arrived at voting age since Obama versus Clinton, extrapolating from Pew Research Center data, and to date nearly two-thirds of Latinx voters in that age bracket have gone for Bernie Sanders.

The 18-29 year old population of Latinos in California is over 3% higher than the same demographic in Texas, a demographic which pushed the Democratic 18-29-year-old vote to 20%, the highest of any state where exit polls have been taken so far. Sanders, unfortunately, gave up on Texas more than a week out, and Texas 18-29-year-olds went for Sanders only 60-40 as opposed to more regular numbers around 86-14. In states like Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin where 18-44-year-olds have made up 43% or more of the electorate, Sanders has outperformed his final RealClearPolitics polling averages by 5.3%, 22.9%, and 10.8% respectively.

***

Erica Garner’s video endorsement of Sanders, now running re-cut in New York as a commercial puts it simply: “I believe Bernie Sanders is a protester.”  Latina and Latino millennials in California have been powerfully shaped by a culture of protests from mass mobilizations against immigration “reform” bills beginning in 2006 to the first appearance of Donald Trump piñatas this past July in Los Angeles. Young hispanic activists from Los Angeles have already been traveling by the bus full to Las Vegas and Phoenix to rally support for Sanders ahead of contests in Nevada and Arizona.

Older Latinos have come to love and respect Bernie, even if they remain in Clinton’s fold. A friend from Whittier, CA recently told me that her parents say, “El Viejito has done good job. He’s pushed La Hillaria to the left, which we all needed.” El Viejito, or The Little Old Man, is the nickname affectionately bestowed on Sanders by native Spanish speakers earlier this year, as noted ahead of Nevada by the Guardian.

When I interviewed Antonio Gonzalez after the Nevada primary, he told me that not only were millennial young people voting for Bernie by the droves, but that over time he expected them to begin convincing their parents to do the same. Anecdotal evidence from Illinois confirms this possibility. National polling over the last few days may suggests the millennials are winning the day. Where Clinton held a seventeen point advantage among all Latinos in February, Sanders now edges her out, according to Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with The Atlantic, or perhaps leads by more than thirty points, if McClatchy-Marist are correct.

On Thursday evening as I finished writing, The Field Poll, the oldest and most respected polling firm in California, released numbers showing Clinton up just six points overall and just seven points among Latinos in California. While I have not seen the full poll results yet, the numbers we do have suggest they likely included a sample size of less than 15% 18-29-year-olds.

In Nevada, a large part of the dispute over Latino exit polling numbers centered around whether 18-29-year-old hispanics really could have made up 38% of that voting block. If similar numbers hold in California, 18-34-year-old Latina and Latino voters could make up over half of a voting block that could be as much as 35% of the overall Democratic electorate. 18-44-year-old Latin American voters could make up 23% or more of the electorate. The magnitude of these numbers cannot be overstated. Latina and Latino voters could push the 18-29-year-old voting block in California over 25% and the 18-44-year-old voting block over 50%. In the Field Poll, 18-29-year-old went for Sanders by 59%, 30-39-year-olds by 25%. Run the numbers, my friends.

Such a possibility could mean an unexpectedly large victory for Bernie Sanders in California and a Democratic establishment desperately waving their legs in the air, heads deep in brackish barrels with gargling sounds of “inevitable” and “math” escaping into the ether.

Update (Friday a.m.): Field Poll releases their results over time staggered by media market. Now that their Bay Area outlet San Jose’s Mercury News has weighed in, we have this stunner: “The age gap appears to have helped Sanders reduce Clinton’s lead from 18 points to just 7 among Latinos, a group that exit polls showed going 2-1 for her in Texas. Sanders led Clinton with 69 percent of Latinos and 62 percent of whites under the age of 40, the Field Poll found.” Well, it may be a little less stunning for the dozen or so people who read this article before that was published!

Doug Johnson Hatlem is best known for his work as a street pastor and advocate with Toronto’s homeless population from 2005-2013. He is now a film producer and free-lance writer based in Chicago.

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