At NPR, Danielle Kurtzleben finds that "Sanders Has Been Losing in States Where Income Inequality Is Worse." She writes:
It's a counterintuitive trend because Bernie Sanders' whole campaign is built on inequality. The phrase "millionaire and billionaire class" (or some variation on it) seems to feature in every single one of his speeches.She delves into possible explanations, including race, regional differences, and facts like: "High poverty levels help drive southern inequality, while in states like New York, Wall Street executives help push inequality higher." And concludes: "Still, given Sanders' focus on the issue, he and his campaign might have thought he would be able to break through in places where inequality was worst. It just hasn't happened."
...The fascinating question is why this is happening.
Spoiler: There's no single great explanation.
One of the major reasons, in my estimation, is that people who are entrenched in poverty, who struggle to find enough to eat no less pay the bills, tend to quite reasonably have a very different view of what and who are responsible for their circumstances than people who are working hard but carrying lots of debt and eking out a living, making enough to get by but not to thrive.
The former group tends to take a broader view of the systemic inequities that contribute to their poverty. They're more likely to see, as but one example, the intersection of identity-based bigotries, lack of jobs, restriction of reproductive rights, institutional neglect, substandard education, high incarceration rates, etc. as part of a constellation of societal issues that feed oppression.
The latter group tend to see corporate greed and political corruption as the primary drivers of their circumstances.
And neither group is necessarily wrong. Which is why one group is disproportionately (though not unilaterally, of course) casting votes for the candidate who talks about breaking down all the barriers that stop people from living up to whatever they can achieve with their own hard work and talents, and the other group is more likely to cast votes for the candidate who speaks very specifically to busting up the institutions that are their primary (and sometimes only) cultural barrier to thriving.
It basically comes down to what I've said before: Breaking up the banks doesn't guarantee abortion access. Rinse and repeat for a whole slew of other social issues that are decided primarily on the state or local level.
People know their own lives. I'm pretty sure that's why Sanders has been losing in states where income inequality is worse.