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College students backing Clinton are frustrated with ‘Bernie Bros’

Despite the backing of young celebrities like musician Demi Lovato Democratic presidental candidate Hillary Clinton has been losing ground with college-age voters.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

As the youthful cult of Bernie Sanders supporters continues to draw converts, college-age Hillary Clinton fans are feeling outnumbered.

“I wouldn’t say I’m completely alone in my support for Hillary, but it’s definitely frustrating,” said George Washington University sophomore Katie Kamins, remarking on the rising tide of Sanders support among her peers. “I get a lot of negative feedback for my support for her.”

She recalled arguing with a friend and diehard Sanders fan over lunch last month because they disagreed about who had won the debate among Democratic presidential candidates in December. Kamins and many other college-age Clinton supporters see the overwhelming campus support for Sanders — from bands of “Bernie Bros” and other students — as naïve.


“It’s frustrating from my perspective that he’s getting so much support when this is her time,” Kamins said. “I feel like there’s a lot of ignorance among college students in regards to their support for Bernie.”

Kamins and other college students who support Clinton have found themselves part of a shrinking group. A majority of college students say they will back Sanders for the Democratic nomination. A poll of college students taken in the fall showed nearly 60 percent supported Sanders. Only 18 percent supported Clinton, a huge drop from the summer when she polled at 40 percent among college students. And a poll this month shows Sanders leading Clinton among primary voters under age 45 by a 2-to-1 ratio.

Many of Clinton’s student supporters were fans long before Sanders announced his presidential run.

Marissa Piccolo, a junior at the University of Connecticut who can quote Clinton stump speech lines off the top of her head, said she started a UConn for Hillary group in March 2014, a full year before Clinton announced her presidential run. She said the rising tide of Bernie support seems to ignore Clinton’s experience.


“There’s a lot of excitement about Sanders but it can be frustrating because when you look at the actual facts of it, I think it’s very clear who the better candidate is,” she said.

Charlotte Blatt, a sophomore at Dartmouth, also calls herself a longtime Clinton supporter.

“I signed up to volunteer the day that she announced she was running. I was so excited,” said Blatt, who studies government and was a Senate intern the summer after her freshman year. “I want to be able to tell my children that I volunteered to help elect the first female president.”

Blatt, 19, commits time every week to the campaign. On Monday, she handed out campaign stickers and talked to prospective voters at the library for a couple of hours. On Wednesday evening, she worked at a phone bank. And on Saturday she plans to canvass with other students in New Hampshire, the second state in the nation to vote on party nominees.

Among the legions of Clinton defectors isKevin Kim, a sophomore at Iowa State University in Ames. Kim trained with Hillary for Iowa at the start of the summer to work as an organizing fellow. But when his boyfriend brought him to a Sanders rally, the “purity” of the senator’s message won him over.

“When you go to a Bernie rally, it’s like nothing else. The people are fired up, and it’s just insane,” said Kim, a 19-year-old architecture student. “He’s stuck to his message and will stick to his message, even if politically that’s not the best thing.”


In contrast to most students supporting Sanders, whose campaign announcement cameas more of a surprise in April, many Clinton supporters had hoped for years that she would run. Boston University junior Annalise Routenberg said she first supported Clinton in 2008, while she was in high school, and she remembers getting a Ready for Hillary T-shirt years ago. She wasn’t alone. The 20-year-old history major recalls BU students during the 2014 midterm elections handing out Clinton buttons and shirts in the middle of campus.

She said she understands her peers’ support of Sanders but thinks much of it is misguided, not taking into account the practicality of his lofty policy goals.

“He has a lot of really great ideas and gets people fired up,” she said. “Yeah, I want free college, but how are you going to do that?”

Sophia Bollag can be reached at sophia.bollag@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @SophiaBollag.