Politics

Young Voters Aren’t Happy With Biden. But Will They Abandon Him?

Are many young people distressed about the war in Gaza? Yes.

Are they unhappy with President Biden’s approach to the war? Yes.

Does this doom Biden’s re-election bid? Not necessarily.

First, a Harvard Youth Poll released in April found that the two issues frequently associated with young voters — the Israel-Hamas war and student debt relief — “may not be especially consequential ones when it comes to casting votes,” as The Harvard Gazette reports, because young voters rank them among the least important issues facing the country. Of the 16 issues the poll asked 18- to 29-year-olds about, those two were ranked last in importance, behind issues such as inflation, immigration, housing and protecting democracy. Indeed, as The Gazette noted, when it comes to the relationship between Biden and young voters, “It’s complicated.”

People watching student protests spread across college campuses in recent weeks might be surprised by that notion, but it’s important to remember that reactions to the protests can work in different ways.

I believe in students’ right to protest — peacefully — even as I acknowledge that protests are often imperfect, and the actions of some who protest are regrettable. I also understand that protesting students are only a fraction of all students, and students are only a fraction of all young voters.

It’s fair to say that protesters represent the views of more people than just themselves and that their protests affect and influence non-protesters, and it’s equally fair to say that there’s a large group of young voters who are not likely to be single-issue voters on the war in Gaza.

Second, modern protest movements have fast metabolisms. Social media allows them to organize well and grow quickly, but trending topics on social media also have a quick turnover. They condition us to have a rolling series of outrages so that no one outrage lasts long.

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