Biden’s collapse with young voters signifies something bigger

Charlie Keidel ’24

Approaching the midterm elections in November, President Joe Biden faces a big problem. He is losing the support of younger voters, a group that turned out huge for him and his party in the 2020 Presidential Election. 

Entering the Oval Office, Biden’s approval rating among young Americans was at 60%. A year and a half later, that support has dwindled: only 38% of young Americans stated that they approve of the job that he is doing. 

To put this in perspective, only about 18% of young Americans describe themselves as Republicans; young voters are overwhelmingly progressive. This led to the Democratic Party’s recent shift left, with the likes of Senators Cory Booker, Dick Durbin and many others shifting leftwards to attempt to accommodate for this large voting base the Democratic party desperately wants to hold onto. Consequently, President Biden’s declining support among younger voters will have consequences in nationwide elections as a whole.

Young voters have to be compelled to vote. In 2020, the storm of racial injustice, the pandemic, and a general disapproval of President Trump created enough unrest to drive young voters out to vote, and they did in a big way, with President Joe Biden winning the most votes of any presidential candidate ever. Now that President Biden is in office, young voters feel like he isn’t living up to his lofty, progressive campaign promises that drove them out to vote in the first place. 

President Joe Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on March 30, 2022 – The White House via Wikimedia Commons

This isn’t to say the President hasn’t done anything: he’s passed bipartisan infrastructure and COVID relief bills, committed to combating climate change, and pulled all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. Young voters to the left of President Biden lack pragmatism, as many fail to recognize that not only is it a struggle to pass progressive legislation, but not every state is a liberal paradise. 

A lot of Democratic Senators in swing states and even red states such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, and Montana’s Jon Tester can’t support the same progressive policies that Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders can. The former have to worry about upcoming electoral challenges, and not falling out of favor in their more conservative states. The two groups are operating on a completely different playing field. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pramila Jayapal, and Jerry Nadler don’t have to worry about how progressive and intolerable to the greater American populace the policies they put forward are because they are guaranteed to retain their seats. Therefore, they set an unrealistic and unreachable standard of politically progressive purity that Democratic politicians like Joe Biden, cannot uphold. This is not to blame Ocasio-Cortez, Jayapal, and Nadler though. 

Young voters must recognize that what their local progressive representatives advocate for is a lot of the time not politically feasible at the national level.

Young voters must recognize that what their local progressive representatives advocate for is a lot of the time not politically feasible at the national level. This doesn’t mean that change cannot be instituted, just that compromise is a fundamental part of the American government and frustration that Joe Biden can’t just ram through progressive legislation is quite unfounded. 

Change is important, and young voters must be forward thinking in their approach every time Election Day rolls around.