Why Wyoming Felt The Bern Over Hillary Clinton Probably Has A Lot To Do With Demographics
In a completely unshocking turn of events, Wyoming Democrats chose Bernie Sanders as their preferred candidate for president during Saturday's caucuses. The Vermont senator picked up nearly 56 percent of the vote in the state, making Wyoming his seventh consecutive victory in the race for the Democratic nomination. It's this momentum, coupled with some key demographic trends, that most likely explains why Wyoming felt the bern over Hillary Clinton on Saturday.
On its face, Wyoming's effect on the election doesn't seem terribly weighty. Wyoming is the least populated state in the country. (In fact, Wyoming's population is roughly half of Rhode Island's, even though Wyoming is roughly 80 times larger than the Ocean State.) As such, Wyoming has the fewest delegates out of all 50 states. Believe it or not, there weren't even any polls taken ahead of Saturday's caucus to gauge who might win in the state — or, at least, there weren't any polls published.
Even without in-depth polling data at the public's disposal, it seemed pretty obvious heading into the Democratic caucus which candidate would come out on top. Wyoming tends to lean Republican — the state has chosen the Republican presidential candidate in each general election since 1968. On Saturday, Republicans weren't an option, but Wyoming's Democratic population certainly seemed like prime Sanders supporters.
First of all, Wyoming's population is overwhelmingly white. According to exit polls, 83 percent of caucus-goers on Saturday identify as white; Sanders won 59 percent of them. This isn't surprising, as Sanders has consistently done well among white Democrats. He's done so well with them, in fact, that his non-white supporters have started to criticize the generalization of his fan base by using the hashtag #BernieMadeMeWhite. To this point, it's worth noting that 31 percent of Sanders' support came from black caucus-goers.
In some respects, Sanders also seemed to extend his appeal to different demographics than he has in other states. Typically speaking, Sanders does well among affluent voters, while Clinton does well among low-income voters. (Again, this is a generalization — #BernieMadeMeRich should start trending any day now.) In Wyoming, though, Sanders won among each income level identified for exit polling purposes and recognized by voters. His level of support from caucus-goers who make $30,000 to $50,000 per year was identical to that of his support among those who make upwards of $100,000 per year.
Finally, the process for Saturday's contest seemed to favor Sanders. Sanders typically does well in caucus states. Out of the 12 caucuses that the Democratic candidates have won pledged delegates in, Sanders has won nine, including Wyoming, Washington, and Kansas. There's no exact explanation for this trend, but it would make sense, given the involved, long-winded nature of caucuses. Voters have to be willing to attend a caucus at a specified time, stay for several hours if necessary, and voice their opinions publicly in front of their friends and neighbors. Sanders' supporters tend to be wealthier and more educated than Clinton's, which also makes them more likely to be engaged with the electoral process. Not to mention, there's the undeniable sense that Sanders' supporters are fired up (aka "feeling the bern") about their candidate.
What may have been more surprising on Saturday is how well Clinton actually fared in Wyoming's caucus. Although she lost the vote, she still garnered 44 percent of caucus-goers' support and she wound up with just as many delegates as Sanders. What victory Sanders did see, though, shouldn't have surprised anyone.