web analytics

Oh Very Young What Will You Be Voting This Time?

Nothing lasts forever.

Once upon a time, a pensive young man wrote a song that captured the essence of a generation still reeling from war and Watergate. It was 1974 and unequivocally not a very good year when this British musician challenged his generation to recognize the fleeting passage of youth and search for its legacy:

“Oh very young, what will you leave us this time
You’re only dancin’ on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy’s best jeans
Denim blue, faded up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will …”

Employing a unique blend of folk, rock, and pop, Cat Stevens’ tender and yearning words connected with his peers, and “Oh Very Young” soared to the top of the charts. How is it that these lyrics remain relevant fifty years later? Perhaps it is because the desires of the heart linger. Thankfully, the wide lapels and bell bottoms have faded from view, but in many ways, Millennials and Zoomers aren’t all that different from their predecessors: There is still a need to search for one’s identity, figure out one’s place in the world, and wrestle with the desire for significance.

With so many existential questions swirling inside those youthful, full-head-of-hair craniums, it’s no wonder the political gentry is having trouble figuring out how these young people will vote. Worse still, those working to persuade this quixotic group to vote must draw young people to support their man. Why? Because in the last two elections, they have proven to be a crucial demographic that could sink or catapult their candidate to victory. So, what do we know about young American voters leading up to Election 2024?

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

President Joe Biden’s campaign is not resonating with young voters: How do we know this? Because poll after poll keeps telling us this is so. It’s also written on the anxious faces of Democratic strategists. Don’t take our word for it. Here it is from the left-leaning website Vox: “Just about every national poll seems to show that Biden is underperforming with young people compared to his 2020 results as well as polls at the same point in the 2020 cycle.” ‘Nuff said.

Young voters tend to vote in higher numbers for third-party candidates. A long-held political industry standard comes down to this simple maxim – younger voters lean left, and older voters lean right. But now it appears there’s a political shift occurring in the youth demographic. More than ever, young people are eschewing the standard “D” or “R” labels and self-identifying as independents.

GettyImages-2156409317 Donald Trump

Donald Trump (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As a result, the Trump campaign has enjoyed a rise in popularity among today’s youth, but they still need a more significant piece of the pie.  Both prominent party candidates must strategize how to appeal to more voters under 30 because Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jill Stein, and Cornel West are already baked into this election. This is why most polls show a close race between Biden and Trump until independent candidates are factored in. Former President Trump invariably comes out ahead in these 5-way race matchups – something that is not lost on the Biden Campaign.

Young people vote their self-interest just like older voters: Today’s voting youth are very issue oriented. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), “53% [of young voters] cite the cost of living/inflation” as their chief concern. Nothing comes a close second. Next are “jobs that pay a living wage,” which polls at 28%. Do we notice a trend here? As the agin’ ragin’ Cajun, James Carville once opined, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

But there’s a new twist: The rise of the independent youth voter also coincides with a change in demographics. In the 21st century, the younger population includes fewer whites and more Hispanics than ever before. Thus, a drop in support for Mr. Biden among non-white groups may be coming from an overlap in his dwindling popularity with young people.

GOP: Careful What You Ask For

Getting young people to vote used to take a lot of arm-twisting. That has changed in the last two election cycles, and inquiring minds might want to know that it wasn’t because of the weather or their particular enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or Donald Trump. The bump in the youth vote can be directly tied to mail-in voting. For the stressed-out, incredibly busy college student or tradesmen, a ballot mailed home makes voting extremely accessible. The Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement conducted extensive research on this topic, and they found the following occurred in the 2020 election:

“On average, youth voter turnout was highest (57%) and had the largest increases over 2016, in states that automatically mailed ballots to voters. Conversely, states with the most restrictive vote-by-mail laws had the lowest youth turnout: an average of 42%.”

Massive mail-in balloting took place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It stands to reason that if Trump gains ground with the young voters while the GOP pushes against mail-in ballots, they will be working at cross purposes. This is likely why the national Republican Party has been urging its supporters to “bank” their vote. That’s a step in the right direction.

Circling Back to the Future

One could postulate that never before has the youth vote garnered such political power. Voting in greater numbers but not beholden to any party puts them at least within view of the cat-bird seat. All five presidential candidates need to take this voting bloc seriously. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has shown remarkable strength in this demographic, which is why the big party apparatchiks cannot simply dismiss him. Late in 2023 a New York Times/Siena poll showed Kennedy beating both Trump and Biden with Gen Z voters. It was a crystalizing moment for the mainstream party candidates.

So what will the very young leave us this time?

The naivete of youth is long past for Cat Stevens, who is now 75. He changed his name to Yusuf Islam after he posed this question to his generation. “Oh Very Young” was one of the last songs he wrote before exiting the big stage for what he hoped would be a quiet, spiritual existence.  Although he tried to leave public life, fame and fortune, as well as tragedy and triumph, followed him into the next century. His music has transcended several generations, selling 100 million records and two billion streams. But perhaps more significantly young people will have a tangible way to answer Stevens’ poignant question with their vote in 2024 because this decision will leave a lasting legacy.

Read More From Leesa K. Donner

Latest Posts

Trump Owns His Own Name

In 2016, Marco Rubio sparred sharply with Donald Trump as the two vied for the GOP presidential nomination, at...

Trump Opens Up About New VP Option

With the Republican National Convention coming up this July, former President Donald Trump is one step closer to...

EV Overload – C5 TV

America could be looking at a government bailout if the industry stalls out....

Chicago’s Homeless Population Boom

Sanctuary cities like Chicago are finding out just how heavy a burden they signed up for as migrants pour across...

Biden’s Blue State Buzzkill

Political analysts have rightly focused on the seven states considered battlegrounds in the 2024 presidential...

Biden’s Border Gambit – C5 TV

How far will the administration allow unchecked illegal immigration to go?...