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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks during a campaign stop at the University Of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Bernie Sanders could be the key to getting young voters to trust Hillary Clinton


Barbara Bush, George W.'s daughter, was spotted at a Clinton fundraiser in Paris

Watch | Can Bernie Sanders get young voters to trust Hillary Clinton?

Hillary Clinton is bringing back her secret weapon to win over America's young voters: a 74-year-old socialist.

Clinton's former rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), stumped for Clinton at a New Hampshire campaign event on Wednesday -- an event aimed squarely at young voters. (According to the New York Times, the words "debt-free college" were uttered 17 times.)

That's a necessary focus for Clinton, as recent polls show her struggling to win over the coveted 18 to 34-year-old demographic, the now-largest generation in America.  Sanders -- popular among millennials -- is a crucial part of that focus.

Building trust

That is not just because Sanders is well-liked among young voters -- it's because he's well-trusted, according to experts who study trends in youth voting and turnout.

"I think [young voters] will be moved by people like Bernie Sanders, who they have an incredible amount of trust and faith in," said John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics.

Clinton, by contrast, has struggled with perceptions of trustworthiness  -- particularly with voters aged 18 to 34. 

Distrust runs deep

Sanders rarely had the trustworthiness problem, meaning "there's a greater likelihood that his words are meaningful and persuasive," Della Volpe said.

But Della Volpe and others also said distrust of Clinton among young voters runs deep -- so deep that not even Sanders could be a successful persuader. Indeed, some Sanders supporters lashed out at the Vermont Senator following his initial endorsement of Clinton.

And even now, about a third of his supporters are still not backing Clinton, according to FiveThirtyEight.

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Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, who studies youth voting trends at Tufts University, said there's another trust aspect to Sanders' campaigning for Clinton: whether young voters actually believe he's sincere about his endorsement.

They have to be able to really trust that the surrogates trust Hillary Clinton.
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg

"One of the most challenging things for her with millennials has been that sense that they cannot trust her, partly because she's from the Democratic Party establishment," Kawashima-Ginsberg added.

"So somebody like Bernie Sanders who comes from outside the party spectrum might really help in convincing young people that if Bernie Sanders can trust her, they can too."

Young voters weigh in

So, what do actual young voters think of all this?

Yong Jung Cho, a 26-year-old organizer for the millennial political group All of Us, said she does think Sanders continued public support of Clinton could push the needle. Cho is, after all, herself a former Sanders supporter -- who is now voting for Clinton.

"I don't think it's too late," she said. "I think Bernie stumping for Clinton is going to be helpful for her campaign."

Inspired by Sanders

Part of that, she said, is because Sanders' campaign inspired young people -- like her little sister -- to get involved in politics in a way they never thought they would before Sanders entered the fray.

"There's all of these people who were really excited to be building something new, and I think that desire is still there," she said.

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