During the ninth Democratic presidential primary debate on Wednesday (February 19), one of the moderators asked former Mayor Pete Buttigieg — the lone millennial presidential candidate — if he was "out of touch" with his own generation because he didn't embrace democratic socialism, a slight jab at Buttigieg's high school essay about his competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders.
"No, look, it's true that I was into Bernie before it was cool," Buttigieg said, laughing with Sanders. It was one of the few genuinely endearing moments from the debate, but the question stands: Do young people really want to elect a democratic socialist?
According to a recent poll from YouGov, 18–29-year-old voters are more likely than any other age group to say they'd vote for a president who called themselves a democratic socialist: compared to 51 percent of 18–29-year-old voters who say they would, so do 43 percent of 30–44-year-old voters, 30 percent of 45–64-year-old voters, and 26 percent of voters over the age of 65. And it's a growing in supporters; in 2015, there were 6,200 members of the Democratic Socialists of America, and now there are 56,000.
Also during the debate, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg conflated socialism with communism, but it's important to remember that communism isn’t democratic socialism. Under communism, the government owns everything, including your property, but under socialism, people own their own property. And equating the two isn't only a Bloomberg thing; it's a notion plenty of older voters agree with. A Hill-HarrisX poll released in May 2019 found that respondents 65 and older were more likely to associate socialism with negative connotations.