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Why young Silicon Valley still hearts Bernie

It's 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday evening and The Sports Page, a bar just a block from the Google Mountain View campus in California, is filling up. On a perfect 60-degree evening, young tech professionals are milling around pitchers of beer on picnic tables to talk sports, speak in "technobabble," and listen to Silicon Valley visitors pitch startup ideas.

Volleyball is played, darts are thrown. The bar owner half-jokingly declares one rule: no political talk allowed. But a handful of Google employees are willing to break it.

"He is not only the most qualified candidate but I feel like what he stands for directly aligns with what I believe in," says Sienna Cazares as she details the reasoning behind her support for Bernie Sanders. She is walking into the bar with two friends, coming from Google where she works. One of them is also a Sanders supporter, while the other is for Clinton.

What would a debate look like between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?

"Bernie has a lot of good ideals but I think Hillary has actually power to actually win," explains Nora Danning after she gives Cazares a look out of the corner of her eye. Danning, 25, also works on the Google campus. "[Clinton] actually has a chance and [Donald] Trump -- it is starting to look like Trump may actually have a chance too and I really don't want Trump."

The anti-Trump sentiment is in Silicon Valley is real -- "well, you won't hear any Trump supporters at Google" one employee quips -- but so too is the pr0-Sanders energy, particularly with younger voters.

At the end of 2015, a Wall Street Journal report showed that Sanders had received more donations from employees at the biggest companies in Silicon Valley than Clinton had. That was before the primaries got under way but, at least among this tiny group, the Sanders supporters have donated while the Clinton supporter has not. Many other Sanders supporters on the bar's back deck said they had donated as well.

The trio chats for a while before heading in to get a pitcher -- but they acknowledge that talking politics with Silicon Valley employees isn't always easy.

"Politics are generally something that you try to shy away from, especially like in a work environment. So sometimes you feel like you don't want to compromise or lose any ground with especially executives or superiors," Cazares explains. "But I do think it is a good dialogue."

Clinton has more big-name support in Silicon Valley than Sanders does. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, is a major Clinton backer. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs and Box CEO Aaron Levie have also endorsed her. But Sanders has a few big names like Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs.

Clinton's big name Silicon Valley backers are doing more behind the scenes to propel her campaign than Sanders backers are. Schmidt's political technology startup, The Groundwork, helped Clinton's campaign develop the digital groundwork it needed. Clinton also has a chief technology officer who came from Google, Stephanie Hannon.

High-profile Sanders backers like Wozniak have not been particularly engaged in the campaign. He has not done any public events for Sanders and professed his support for the candidate with a tweet in March:

Down on Republicans and Democrats, #Bernie2016 #FeelTheBern.

— Steve Wozniak (@stevewoz) September 1, 2015

"I'm extremely busy and I don't have time to get involved in the conflicts that come with politics, but I don't mind sharing my views," says Wozniak.

The Silicon Valley icon says his time at Apple has nothing to do with his support for Sanders. His politics and "philosophies of life" were formed at 20 years old, he says. Likewise, many of the young Silicon Valley workers say that their work affiliation does not influence who they support.

"I work for a company that uses a fruit with a bite out of it as their logo. I don't know if that is too much information," explains one Apple employee mischievously. It is 6:30 am at a busy bus stop in downtown San Francisco where Silicon Valley workers load onto coach buses to head to work. It is hard to get any kind of dialogue going. Sleepy eyes stare at iPhones. But the majority of those who briefly emerged from their earphones to talk politics are Sanders supporters.

What is most important is that Sanders "believes what he says," according to the Apple employee, who wears a tee-shirt with an image of Prince on it. He explains that Sanders' plan to raise taxes on the wealthy does not bother him.

"I just want to be comfortable, live a good life, be happy," he says simply.

Chris LaRosa, a group product manager at Twitter, is in that same boat. LaRosa, 34, says he grew up poor, ate reduced-cost school lunches, and went to college on federal grants. He says those programs allowed him to realize his potential, and that other people should have those programs easily accessible to them.

Like the Sanders supporters at Google, LaRosa has donated to the Sanders campaign and is not worried about tax increases.

"I want my taxes to go up because on a year-over-year basis I don't really feel the difference between, you know, a [3o percent marginal tax rate versus a 40 percent marginal tax rate]. But I do feel a difference when I know that my parents, who are retired, are going to have Social Security.

I know that when my cousins and family members who are educators are going to be able to make a living wage, and they are not going to have to worry about opportunities for their kids like going to college. Those things matter to me," LaRosa says. "Those kinds of things change your outlook on life."

LaRosa, who has already mailed in his vote for Sanders for June 7th's California Democratic primary, has been trying convince his friends and family members to get on the Bernie train as well. That said, he will be supporting for Clinton if she clinches the nomination, which she is poised to do soon. The reason? Trump cannot win.

"Well, I vote for Hillary Clinton because I am not going to vote for a xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynist," LaRosa says.

Echoes of that sentiment resound at The Sports Page's wooden picnic tables as well.

"Bernie is my pick. If he is not the Democratic nominee, I will vote for Hillary," says Melanie Chabot, a Google employee sitting at one of those tables. Trump is not an option. Just a few seats away the phrase "we are doomed" is used to describe what happens if Trump wins the presidency.

Yet unifying behind Clinton is not a given for everyone in the Valley -- especially Sanders' most ardent supporters. Wozniak says he would never vote for Clinton or Trump. He says voting for Clinton "would feel, like, worse," than voting for President Obama.

"I have a principle against voting and have never voted for a candidate who had a chance to win," the Silicon Valley guru, a onetime backer of Ralph Nader, says. "I did not vote for Obama either."

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