These numbers are so gruesome that some professional pollsters simply refuse to believe them. “Young people simply did not get 40 points more Republican relative to the nation as a whole over the span of 2 years,” tweeted G. Elliott Morris about the new Quinnipiac survey, pointing to the fact that Biden is -37 here among young adults but +2 among senior citizens. Trump won seniors by four points in 2020 while Biden won big among the 18-34 group. Is it likely that Biden has held steady (or even improved) among older Americans while the bottom has fallen out among younger ones?
We may have a sample problem here, in other words.
But if we do, it’s a “fake but accurate” thing: Quinnipiac’s sample may be overstating how much ground Biden has lost among young Americans but he has lost a lot of ground, as some other recent polls have showed. And since young adults are a core Democratic constituency, that ground can’t easily be made up elsewhere. If the kids don’t turn out for Grandpa Joe’s party in November, it’s at risk of being obliterated.
Quinnipiac has Biden at 33 percent approval overall, another outlier-ish number in a bad direction for Dems. (He’s at 40.6 percent in the RCP average.) But most of the oohing and ahhing this afternoon is reserved for the split among adults aged 18-34:
He won them by 24 points two years ago. Two years later, just seven percent say they “strongly approve” of Biden’s performance, the lowest share of any age group. His numbers among young adults are so bad, in fact, that his net disapproval is actually a few points higher than Trump’s was among the same group four years ago.
It’s not that young adults are turning Republican, notes Kristen Soltis Anderson, citing last week’s Quinnipiac data. They still prefer Democrats on the generic ballot (the only age group to do so, in fact). They’re just disillusioned with Biden and maybe with politics in general:
Despite their disillusionment with Biden, voters under 35 aren’t becoming some big GOP constituency – the problem for Democrats is less that they’ll vote Republican and more that they’ll stay home.
— Kristen Soltis Anderson (@KSoltisAnderson) April 13, 2022
You can take your pick about the causes of that disillusionment. Progressives will tell you it’s because the White House hasn’t moved far enough to the left, failing to pass Build Back Better or voting rights reform and doing nothing about student debt forgiveness. Centrists will give you more bottom-line arguments about inflation and gas prices eating up young adults’ meager paychecks. No doubt there’s truth to both arguments. But wherever you land on that debate, the phenomenon of Biden bleeding support among Generation Z is real and it’s spectacular. CBS noticed the trend in late January:
Another eye-catching group consists of younger Americans, specifically people under 30. They turned out in record numbers in 2018 and 2020, and six in 10 of them voted for Biden. But their approval rating has dropped from 70% in February to just 42% now. This 28-point decline over the year is nearly double the size seen in other age groups, and unlike these older groups, the under-30 group’s ratings have slid even further since November.
A Democratic internal poll taken in December found Biden’s approval among adults under 30 at just 29/50, in line with today’s eye-popping Quinnipiac numbers and a key driver of Biden’s overall decline in job approval. More data from around the same time:
Here is my piece on our YouGov/Economist data showing a huge dropoff in support for Biden among young people. The decrease really is quite stunning: -50 points on net approval since January 26th (our first survey of his presidency).https://t.co/x5Ss0aB7sv
— G. Elliott Morris (@gelliottmorris) December 16, 2021
“Dwindling support among young voters is an existential concern for the Democratic Party,” said one analyst about those numbers. More recently, a YouGov poll taken this past weekend has Biden at 37/53 in overall job approval but the age demographic that’s most sour on him is — you guessed it — young adults. He’s at 31/53 among the 18-34 crowd, five points worse than his next worst age group. And again, young adults have the smallest share who say they “strongly support” Biden.
Democrats are keenly aware of this problem and are consulting with pollster John Della Volpe, who specializes in surveying young adults, on what to do. Along with the usual “listen to them, hear their concerns” yadda yadda, a strategy is emerging: Bribe ’em.
Della Volpe listed a handful of policy areas where potential executive actions from Biden “would very quickly capture the attention of [young] people.” The list includes student debt, mental health, climate change and dealing with the rising cost of living…
Major progressive outside groups, though, think Biden can go much further. They argue that he should cancel student debt altogether or work more aggressively on his climate agenda.
NextGen America’s president, Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, said “young people want to see action, and that’s why we’re yelling as loud as we can, ‘please take action on student debt,’ because this is within the power of the Biden administration.” Last week, the Biden administration announced another four-month extension of the pause on monthly loan payments and interest.
Coincidentally, Chuck Schumer announced just this afternoon that pausing student loan payments is insufficient and that “the canceling of student debt is the way to go,” adding that “the White House seems more open to it than ever before.” I’ll bet.
One more point. Look back to the Quinnipiac numbers at the top of this post and notice which racial group gives Biden the worst marks. Yep, it’s Hispanics — which is also part of a trend (in Quinnipiac polling, at least). I doubt we’ll see many Bernie-backing young adults crossing over to vote GOP this fall; more likely is that their disaffection with Democrats will lead them to stay home. Hispanics may be a different story.