It’s not the first time we’ve seen a stampede away from Joe Biden, nor is it the worst, but the new Harvard poll of younger voters corroborates Quinnipiac’s result earlier this month. It also adds a new element in terms of enthusiasm ahead of this midterm cycle. Put simply, younger voters have grown disillusioned with Joe Biden and may not show up in large numbers this November:
President Biden’s approval rating was down to 41 percent among young Americans, down nearly 20 percent on a year ago, a new poll out Monday showed.
The poll from the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School indicated a drop from 46 percent approval for Biden last fall, and 59 percent last spring.
The biggest problem is Biden’s cheap promises to forgive student debt. It turned out to be far more difficult to achieve rather than promise. Biden has yet to learn how to manage expectations despite being in Washington for more than 20% of America’s history as a nation, but younger voters are learning a lesson about campaign promises:
In terms of specific issues facing young people, the overwhelming majority of respondents in the survey pointed to government action on student loan debt.
About 85 percent of young Americans were in favor of some kind of political action, but only 38 percent favored total debt cancellation.
There’s no doubt that the continued chatter around student-loan actions aims to reverse this. The problem is that this isn’t an issue that sells well among voters in general, who are far more likely to be suspicious of bigger spending initiatives as inflation escalates. The students who have this debt have received a college education already, after all, which should confer some economic benefits on them. Taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for that; it should get paid by the people who got the direct benefit. That would either be the students, the schools, or both.
The Harvard memo on the poll points up that the problem isn’t merely disapproval. It’s also disengagement, at least potentially:
A national poll released today by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School indicates that while 18-to-29-year-olds are on track to match 2018’s record-breaking youth turnout in a midterm election this November and prefer Democratic control 55%-34%, there was a sharp increase in youth believing that “political involvement rarely has tangible results” (36%), their vote “doesn’t make a difference” (42%) and agreement that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing” (56%). President Biden’s job approval has dropped to 41% among young Americans, down from 46% in the IOP Fall 2021 poll and down 18% overall in the past year.
So far, though, younger voters are still engaged, with 36% “definitely” voting in the midterms, as compared with 37% ahead of the record-setting 2018 midterms. The composition of those enthused young voters has changed, however:
Compared with Spring 2018 Harvard IOP polling, the composition of the electorate looks different. Young Democrats (38% of 18–29-year-olds) are less likely (-5 points) and young Republicans (25% of 18-29-year-olds) are more likely (+7) to vote at this stage. While interest among white and Hispanic voters did not change significantly, young Asian American and Pacific Islander voters show increased interest (+13), while young Black Americans show significantly less interest in voting (-13) than they did at this point in the 2018 midterm election cycle.
And there’s also this:
Agreement with the statement “I don’t believe my vote will make a real difference,” increased from 31% in 2018 to 42% in 2022.
That’s not a recipe for a big turnout, especially as it relates to Democrats in midterm races. Those numbers reflect a large amount of discontent with the status quo, and since Democrats control all of the electoral levers in Washington, they’ll pay the price. And why would anyone expect younger voters to be enthusiastic about an old man who’s clearly running out of gas (literally as well as figuratively), one who hasn’t had a fresh idea since Barack Obama’s first term in office? If then?
That doesn’t mean Republicans will inspire young voters more, but it does mean that the GOP may at least have an opening in the midterms with this usually rock-solid Democratic demo. Let’s see if they can surprise us by doing something with it.