The results in the state must nonetheless have been heartening to the senator. Obviously, because he picked up the most votes for the third contest in a row. But more subtly because of how his performance there fared relative to his 2016 bid.
As we saw in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders received less support overall than he did four years ago. This isn’t a surprise, given that he was essentially in a head-to-head contest then while now he has four or five significant opponents. But this wasn’t universally true across demographic groups. Entrance polling compiled by Edison Media Research shows that although Sanders lost about 10 points with most demographic groups, his support was generally consistent with self-identified “very liberal” caucusgoers — and with nonwhite attendees.
In 2016, you may remember, nonwhite voters were Sanders’s Achilles’ heel. Hillary Clinton, who went on to win the nomination, regularly routed Sanders with nonwhite voters, especially black Democratic voters. She built up a lead in the South that Sanders could never overtake. In Nevada this year, Sanders won about 42 percent of the nonwhite vote.
This was actually the same percentage of the demographic that he won in the state four years ago, as the graph above shows. But again, it comes in the context of his support dropping among other demographic groups. Among white caucusgoers, for example, Sanders’s support was 20 points lower this year than it was then. Among nonwhites, no change. Among very liberal attendees, he was down only 3 points, essentially unchanged.
(Interestingly, his support dropped more among independents — a central part of his 2016 constituency — than it did among members of the Democratic Party. This was largely because he had further to fall: He earned 7 in 10 independent votes four years ago.)
Among Hispanics, Sanders’s support was essentially unchanged. When he ran even with Clinton among Hispanics four years ago, it prompted some analysis questioning whether the entrance polls were capturing his support accurately with the demographic. After Saturday, the figures from 2016 seem less iffy.
It’s important to remember that the Hispanic population nationally and in Nevada skews much younger than other demographic groups. In July, we reported that the most common age in the United States was 27. Among whites, it was 58. Among Hispanics? Eleven.
More than 4 in 10 Hispanics in Nevada are younger than 25, according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. That’s compared to about 1 in 5 non-Hispanic whites.
Looking only at the adult population, more than 6 in 10 Hispanics in Nevada are younger than 45.
Sanders won 57 percent of support among caucusgoers younger than 45 on Saturday.
In Nevada, caucusgoers younger than 45 made up nearly two-thirds of his initial support. Hispanics constituted about 1 in 4 votes; very liberal voters, about 4 in 10.
There’s overlap between more liberal, younger and nonwhite support, obviously. But this is also the Venn diagram that Democrats see as powering their electoral success in the future. As the United States grows more diverse and as younger voters — who tend to be more liberal — grow older (and therefore can vote/vote more heavily), Democrats hope they’ll build a significant advantage that can offset an aging white population that votes more heavily Republican.
This coalition looks like the one that powered Sanders’s win Saturday. There are lots of caveats, including that Sanders’s organizational strength gave him an advantage in caucuses in particular in 2016, but Democrats want a nominee who can mobilize and energize this pool of voters. It’s not the only key to winning in November, but it’s an important factor.
Nevada was the least white state to vote in the Democratic contests so far this year, and it was the one where Sanders saw the least drop-off from his 2016 performance by age and by ideology.
Again, there are other factors: a smaller field than Iowa and his dominating performance in New Hampshire four years ago. But this is a trend that many Democrats would want to see: Sanders performing well and energizing support among voters whom the party very much needs to see at the polls in eight months.