by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Joe Biden confusing Taylor Swift and Britney Spears may have been funny, but a continued inability to connect with young people, especially young Democrats, will not be a laughing matter for his reelection campaign next year.
With hypothetical head-to-head polling indicating a close race between Biden and likely 2024 Republican nominee former President Donald Trump, every vote will count in 12 months.
Biden’s support of Israel amid its war against Hamas has strained the president’s relationship with young people, including Democrats, who are more open to criticizing Israel than their older counterparts. The conflict, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has arguably distracted Biden from his climate priorities, which tend to be important to young Democrats. Biden’s overtures to the demographic have also been undermined by the Supreme Court, which has ruled against his federal student loan debt forgiveness proposals.
But pollster David Paleologos advised against pigeonholing young people as single-issue voters, whether regarding the Israel-Hamas war, climate, or student loans. They additionally care about the economy and inflation, according to Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center.
“In our last national poll, young people trusted Donald Trump more to handle the economy, 51%-41%, over Joe Biden,” Paleologos told the Washington Examiner. “But, among these same young voters in a ballot test, Biden led by 3 points, 35%-32%. The difference? Independent candidate RFK, who pulled young voters away from Trump.”
“Both scenarios are bad for Biden currently, either more young voters voting for Trump or more young voters voting third-party, because it’s one less vote for Biden and reduces the advantage Biden should have in this key age voting bloc,” he said. “That’s a far cry from the 24-point thumping Biden gave to Trump among those ages 18-29 years, 60%-36%, in the 2020 election.”
But more broadly, for former Democratic strategist Christopher Hahn, Biden’s lack of appeal among young Democrats is driven by personality and not policy.