Yes, Bernie Sanders Is Jewish — Here's Why That Could Actually Help Him In The 2016 Presidential Run

This April, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced he was officially entering the 2016 presidential race as a Democrat. Though much of the nation knew little about ole' Bernie at that point, we soon learned some stats quickly: he's a beloved grandpa, a devoted champion of working families, and the the longest-running Independent in congressional history. He's also the only Jewish candidate in the race — which would be a first if he wins. According to MSNBC, while Sanders doesn't actively practice the religion, he does identify as culturally Jewish; and as it turns out, being Jewish could help Sanders a lot when voting time comes.

If you're wondering right about now why Sanders' religion actually matters, and who (if anyone) really cares... well, just consider this: MSNBC reviewed Google search data in the 24 hours after his official announcement in May, and found that the second most searched question relating to the candidate was "Is Bernie Sanders Jewish?" (So apparently, a lot of people do.) And then there's this: Of the 2016 contenders at that time, Sanders was the only candidate whose religion came up in MSNBC' poll of top five most searched questions.

But that's not to say Sanders' religion will in any way hurt his chances. At least, not according to a recent poll by Gallup, which found that 91 percent of adults in the United States who have no religious preference would vote for a Jewish candidate. That stat fell just behind Catholic candidates, which were found to be backed by 93 percent of Americans polled. The study also found that 92 percent of Democrats surveyed and 95 percent of Republicans would vote for a Jewish candidate. (Looks like we've come a long way since the 1960 election — when JFK being Catholic was a big cause for concern.)

But let's forget religion for a second. Here's what actually could hurt the senator when it comes to the election: the fact that Sanders also identifies as a "democratic socialist." In the same Gallup poll, Democrats and Republicans were found to be least likely to vote for a socialist candidate at 59 percent and 26 percent, respectively. About 47 percent of non-religious Americans said they would vote for a socialist candidate if their party nominated one, while 50 percent said they would not. For the poll, Gallup surveyed 1,527 adults via landlines and cell phones in early June.

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Sanders, who CNN described as a "rumpled radical-like 73-year-old," definitely stands out in the race so far. For starters, he's strongly positioned himself against billionaires, who he says have hijacked America's economy and hurt the middle class. What's more, Sanders is currently gaining on Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, according to National Journal. He's also extremely popular in his homestate, boasting a 75 percent approval rating. (Not too shabby.) His fight for working families has also gained him a lot of support among the middle class. As the New York Observer reported, Sanders recently visited Colorado to learn more about the state's marijuana market, and at his last rally in Vermont, he lamented over the plight of a young teacher he had met while there:

Obviously in our society we desperately need teachers. And her crime for wanting to get a master’s degree was that she is now $200,000 in debt and paying interest rates between 6 and 9 percent. … All of this stuff is crazy stuff.

One last boost for Sanders? The senator cares deeply about climate change — an issue that could make or break things for other candidates when it comes to grabbing the young vote. So yea; religion aside, Sanders' success in the 2016 election will most likely come down to the willingness of American voters to accept Sanders' "radical" stance compared to his fellow candidates. One thing's for sure: he's definitely going to make the race interesting.

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