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Election 2024: Are the Young Getting Restless?

Younger voters usually vote left of center, but that may not be the case this year.

The political chattering class appears to be getting a bit nervous about how young people will vote should the presidential election come down to a battle between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Leftists have spent much time gloating about how young people despised Trump at the polling booth. They cited 2016, when Hillary Clinton walked away with the youth vote, and then 2020, when Biden did the same, but not by as wide a margin. Lately, however, a slew of polls shows the former president is gaining traction with the 18-34-year-old set. Some analysts on the left are downright dumbfounded by this latest trend, and the left is growing more concerned by the day about Election 2024.

GettyImages-1965959346 Donald Trump

Donald Trump (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

The New York Intelligencer is a case in point. “Young voters were, after all, the largest and most rapidly growing segment of the Democratic base in the last election. But now public-opinion surveys are beginning to unveil a far more terrifying possibility,” author Ed Kilgore gasped in an article written in November 2023. Then he wrote the unthinkable: “Donald Trump could carry the youth vote next year.”

There is evidence to back up his nightmare scenario. It’s been coming in dribs and drabs over the last several months, and it can be found in the polls. An NBC News poll cross tab showed voters aged 18-34 preferred Trump (46%) to Biden (42%). A national CNN poll (okay, take this one for what it’s worth) had Trump up by one point for the same age group. But the most frightening survey came from a New York Times/Siena College national poll, which revealed that 49% of 18-29-year-olds prefer Trump to Biden’s 43%.

To be fair, other polls show the current president leading the former: Quinnipiac had Biden up 5% in Pennsylvania — but that was with voters under the age of 35. A New York Times/Siena battleground poll also had him up by only 1%.

Election 2024 and the Fear Factor

Christian Paz, senior politics reporter at Vox, sounded positively apoplectic about the possibility that young people could favor Trump in the upcoming election. “If those polls are to be believed,” Paz posited, “President Joe Biden isn’t just in trouble with dissatisfied young voters. He’s facing the possibility Trump could do better with young voters than any other Republican candidate of the modern era.”

The rap against young people has been that they just don’t show up to vote. That changed in 2020 when half the youth electorate between 18 and 29 voted. This percentage represents “a remarkable 11-point increase from 2016 (39%) and likely one of the highest rates of youth electoral participation since the voting age was lowered to 18,” according to the Tufts Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

Why is it that so many young people voted in 2020? Answer: because it was much easier to do. COVID was at its peak. State legislatures and governors were scrambling to find ways for people to vote without fear of catching the virus. Tuft’s research illustrated the highest turnout of young voters occurred, unsurprisingly, in states that sent out absentee ballots. It is so much easier to fill out something that has come to you in the mail and return it than to go to the polls on Election Day. And there is research to back this up.

“On average,” CIRCLE found, “youth voter turnout was highest (57%), and had the largest increases over 2016, in states that automatically mailed ballots to voters.” Proving the point, it discovered the adverse to be true. In states with more restrictive voting laws, turnout for young people was low. In fact, the more stringent the voting laws, the smaller the youth vote in that state. Of course, there are other reasons young people voted, like party outreach, but by and large the ease of restrictions in individual states produced a greater number of young people casting their ballots.

Bringing the Polls to You

Several states have tightened their voting laws since 2020, so we may see fewer young people voting in Election 2024. It must be noted that they vote on the issues, too. This is also where the Biden campaign runs into trouble. Those below the age of 29 are quite concerned about the president’s age as well as his feeble appearance. They don’t like his stance on Israel, and they are downright angry over the economy.

As young people reconsider their views of Trump, it appears they are but one of several demographic groups ready to jump the Good Ship Biden. Time magazine summed it up this way:

“Mainstays of the Democratic coalition — Black, Latino, and young voters — appear to be leaving Biden’s party in droves. Trump wins voters aged 18-29 in a few polls, despite losing them by 24 points in 2020. He’s reaching 20 percent among Black voters, a polling level without precedent for any Republican nominee in the last 40 years. And he continues to build on the gains he made among Hispanics in 2020.”

Add up the smaller demographic categories, a more challenging voting process in some states, and a few crucial policies that young people just plain don’t like, and it may equal a perfect storm that could put Trump back behind the Resolute desk. No wonder the left is starting to panic about Election 2024. If young people and minorities decide that Trump doesn’t seem so bad after all, it will be an almost insurmountable uphill climb for the Democrats.

Read More From Leesa K. Donner

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