Trump doing better with young voters than Biden

President Biden’s problem right now is not simply that his polls are bad.

It’s that he is leaking support from key Democratic blocs — and that his nemesis, former President Trump, is doing surprisingly well. 

The starkest example comes among young voters. 

A New York Times/Siena College poll released Tuesday showed Trump ahead of Biden by 6 points among registered voters under 30. 

If such a performance were to be reflected in an actual election, it would make a Trump victory all but inevitable. 

In 2020, Biden crushed Trump by 24 points among the under-30s, according to the main exit poll — and still won just a narrow electoral college victory. 

The new poll cannot be dismissed as an outlier, either. 

An NBC News survey last month showed a very similar pattern, with voters under 35 favoring Trump by 4 points, 46 percent to 42 percent. It was the first NBC News poll of Biden’s presidency that showed Trump beating the incumbent president overall, albeit by a slim 2-point margin. 

The findings bring up two intertwined questions: Why is Biden doing so badly with younger voters, and why is Trump doing so well? 

The first part of the question is easier to answer.  

The 81-year-old Biden — a relative moderate and a staunch institutionalist — has never been an especially inspiring figure to young voters.  

Young progressives have been disappointed that he has not taken more expansive action on priorities from climate change to voting rights. Student loan repayments resumed in October after Biden’s efforts to forgive significant student debt were blocked by the Supreme Court. 

That left Biden in a vulnerable position — which then became exponentially worse when Israel unleashed a furious attack on Gaza after the Oct. 7 Hamas assault that killed around 1,200 Israelis.

Younger Americans are, overall, far more sympathetic to the Palestinians than older generations are. Polls suggest many such voters have recoiled at Biden’s vigorous support for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the Palestinian death toll mounts. 

The New York Times poll showed voters under 30 disapproving of Biden’s handling of the Middle East conflict by an enormous margin — 72 percent to 20 percent. 

“It’s what’s driving young voters away from Biden more than anything, even though it is obviously one part of a larger picture,” said Usamah Andrabi, the communications director for Justice Democrats, a left-wing group. 

Biden has adopted a tougher rhetorical tone with Israel recently, including saying last week that it was starting to lose support because of “indiscriminate bombing.”

But that is insufficient in the eyes of progressives such as Andrabi.

“Cautiously criticizing ‘indiscriminate bombing’ two-and-a-half months into an unrelenting campaign that has displaced almost 2 million Palestinians? It’s a bit too late for being cautious. … At this point, the sentiment should be strong red lines, strong opposition.” 

Still, left-leaning distaste for Biden’s policies does not fully explain Trump’s apparently strong performance. After all, it’s not as if a Trump presidency would bring a more sympathetic approach to the Palestinians. 

Additionally, the former president is of the same generation as Biden, faces 91 charges in four criminal cases and was impeached for his role in the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021. 

On Tuesday afternoon, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s conduct around Jan. 6 disqualifies him from holding office, and thus struck him from the state’s primary ballot.  

The ruling allows time to appeal, and a Trump campaign spokesperson, Steven Cheung, duly released a statement pledging to “swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.” 

Young supporters of Trump, though, cite several different strands for their support.  

They emphasize the effects of a struggling economy on their daily lives and hopes of climbing the economic ladder; a liking for Trump’s capacity for disruption; and a feeling that America has grown weaker and more divided under Biden. 

Camryn Kinsey backed Trump in 2020, the first presidential contest in which she was old enough to vote. She remains a supporter of the former president. 

“I think economic concerns are the leading reason why Trump is leading in polls right now with young voters,” she said. “Young voters are voting with their pocketbooks. When it comes to anything from buying a house to the price of groceries, it’s an unsustainable lifestyle [under Biden.]” 

Asked about how she would rebut the argument that young voters might be expected to back away from Trump because of his numerous controversies, Kinsey responded, “What we’ve seen from this administration is not the outcome we want for America.”  

She outlined concerns ranging far beyond the economy to other topics including national security and a perceived loss of respect for America’s strength on the global stage. And she framed youthful support for Trump in expressly patriotic terms, as proof that “young voters have a healthy love for their country.” 

Young progressives have a diametrically different worldview than Trump supporters such as Kinsey. But they do share an unexpected sliver of common ground in arguing that a lack of real change from Biden has left an opening for Trump. 

“The larger risk is young people staying out of the election, but this poll [in the New York Times] is showing some fraction voting for Trump instead. And what I take from that is that young people feel Democrats have failed to make tangible differences to their lives in the past four years,” said Michele Weindling, political director of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-oriented progressive organization. 

She said younger voters who believe the nation — and their generation specifically — faces multiple crises feel an impulse “to shake up the system,” and now they are “not knowing where to put that.” 

Weindling further contended that Biden’s position on Israel (“pro-war”) and on energy (“pro-drilling”) among other things had disillusioned young progressives. She warned that the White House seemed to be content to “continue to overlook the severity of the disillusionment.” 

Andrabi, of the Justice Democrats group, contended that backing for Trump was largely a reflexive rejection against Biden rather than substantive support for the former president. 

“You could put a different name and it would be the same result,” he said. 

But there’s no comfort there for the White House — especially with the war in Gaza continuing and, at home, perceptions of the economy remaining cloudy.

“Young people are saying this presidency is not what we want,” Andrabi said. “The way President Biden is acting is not what we want.” 

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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