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Biden’s challenge: getting his mojo back with younger voters

President BidenElizabeth Frantz/NYT

With the nation in a moment of deep political polarization, it is hardly surprising that Republicans aren’t big fans of the performance of Democratic President Joe Biden.

The real surprise is that the reason for Biden’s lowest approval ratings of his presidency lately is younger people, who are increasingly signaling their disapproval of him.

Further, it’s hard to point to one reason why. There’s more than one to choose from.

Two national polls released this week showed just how much support for Biden has declined among younger voters.

On Wednesday, a Quinnipiac College poll found Biden with just a 33 percent job approval rating, the lowest the pollsters have recorded during his presidency. Those aged 65 and above were split on Biden. Among those 34 and under, he had 21 percent approval, a 23-point decline from the beginning of his presidency.


The next day, a Gallup poll had a similar message. It found that since the election, no other age group in American politics had soured more on Biden than voters born from 1997 to 2004 (the voting-age members of Generation Z). Among that group, his approval rating had dropped 21 points.

Some interest groups suggest the disillusionment stems from Biden’s failure to cancel hefty student loans. But that ignores the fact that Biden has frozen federal student loan payments during his time in office and that only a third of Gen Z members would be affected by the student loan forgiveness that some have proposed.

The Trump factor might be another explanation. In 2020, Biden may have had higher approval rating numbers from younger people just because he was better than the alternative, Trump, whom many in Gen Z could not stomach. Now that Biden doesn’t have Trump as a prominent foil, he could be less popular by default.


Another explanation could be the demographics of younger voters. Black and Latino support for Biden has nosedived during his presidency. So, too, has independent support for Biden since last summer. Gen Z is America’s most diverse generation and its members are more likely to register as political independents. The decline in support among Gen Z might be driven less by age than by race and ideology.

To be sure, the Gen Z vote matters a lot. Younger voters have been voting in higher numbers. Since the 1980s, the two biggest youth turnout elections were in 2018 and 2020, which helped propel Democrats to power. Losing this part of the Democratic coalition could hurt badly. Youth turnout, for example, went back down during the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, which saw Republican Glenn Youngkin win.

It’s unclear whether the oldest elected president in American history can get his mojo back with the kids. This week, his chief of staff said there might be plans in the works to cancel student loans. That leaves a whole host of other issues dear to young people, like gun violence, climate change, racial justice, and housing policies, still on the table.

But one way for Biden to improve his prospects would be to figure out the puzzle of younger voters.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.