The New Political Arithmetic: Who Voted for Bernie, Who Voted for Hillary, and Why

Source: Ted Fertik, New Labor Forum, Published online before print August 4, 2016
(subscription required)

About the only compliment one can pay the American political commentariat in 2016 is that not one of their number has claimed that he or she saw this coming. For either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders to have emerged as legitimate [sic] contenders for the nominations of America’s two major parties would have represented a scrambling of all of the rules of politics that pundits, donors, and aspiring candidates learned since their days as political science undergraduates; for one of them to win a party’s candidacy and the other to have very nearly derailed the most formidable non-incumbent candidate in modern history reveals the social chasm separating so many Americans from their thought leaders and opinion formers….

…..The Sanders base, then, is the young and political independents, who share the core characteristic of being very weakly attached to the existing parties. With the exception of those earning very low incomes, which include large numbers of elderly voters on fixed incomes, Sanders did significantly better among those earning modest incomes than among the best paid. Clinton’s most reliable supporters were stalwartly Democratic African Americans, the elderly, and those well-off Americans who choose to vote in Democratic primaries.

What the Sanders supporters really have in common is that they are the voters more likely to agree that the system—the economic system and the political system that enables it—is broken. The white working-class voters who supported Sanders come from communities that have been hurt by trade deals. Many have directly experienced downward mobility or have come to expect it for their children. If they were once Democrats, they may no longer be, although they feel, as political analyst Thomas Frank portrayed it more than a decade ago, that the Democratic Party left them, not the other way around. For the young, it is well known that they are the first generation of Americans to be almost certain to earn less than their parents…..