Guest Commentary / May 12, 2022

Democrats Are Pushing Young Voters to the Right

Biden’s approval rating among voters under 35 years old currently stands at a paltry 37%. That’s his lowest approval rating among any age group.

By David Grasso

Democrats are on track to lose the youth vote, and that could change the power dynamic in Washington. There’s palpable concern among the ranks of a Democrat Party that has long relied on younger voters as a key part of its electoral coalition. Without young people, Democrats could see a repeat of the “shellacking” that took place in the midterms during the Obama era.

After winning 58% of Millennial and Gen Z voters in 2020, Biden’s approval rating among voters under 35 years old currently stands at a paltry 37%. That’s his lowest approval rating among any age group, a finding that’s corroborated across numerous polls.

This yawning “enthusiasm gap” among young Americans has Democrat operatives worried. If young people don’t begin to turn the corner, their lackluster support could cost the party crucial votes in the midterms. Many are already recognizing that even a modest drop in turnout among younger voters could be devastating to Democrat prospects for keeping a majority in Congress in 2023.

Young people, like myself, are often not tethered to any partisan affiliation. In fact, half of Millennial and Gen Z voters now identify as “independent” of the party structure. And while the younger demographic still tends to lean Democrat, no one should expect them to reflexively support Democrat candidates simply because they don’t like the Republican alternative.

Just like Americans in the Rust Belt who voted for Obama twice and then solidified Trump’s win, young people change their minds constantly. They need to be won over, again and again, every election cycle. The voters who helped push Biden over the top in 2020 won’t necessarily be there for his party in 2022 or 2024.

Through our focus on bipartisan issues impacting young people, Bold TV has been studying this trend for a while, which is why we are not surprised to learn that young Americans are distancing themselves from Democrats, especially when it comes to kitchen table issues — most notably the economy.

Millennials and Gen Zers are, like most Americans, very concerned about inflation eating away at their hard-earned gains. We were already used to a world of sky-high healthcare, education, and housing costs, but the past two years have made our economic reality markedly worse. While the job market has seen a dramatic improvement, our take-home pay is simply not enough to live well in today’s red-hot economy. For us, ideological consistency is not a high priority — we just want the same stable economic life that our forebearers enjoyed.

Our politics are plain and simple: We are heavily in debt and we don’t own much. Our parents are often worth 10 times what we’re worth, and we’re watching the American Dream slip away in an economy where everything is unaffordable.

Because Democrats have been at the helm of the inflationary economy, they’re going to get the blame and pay the consequences at the ballot box in November. Less than two years after winning voters under 35 by a 20-point margin, the Democrat Party’s approval rating is underwater by double digits with Millennial and Gen Z voters in numerous swing states. Even if those voters don’t defect to the Republican Party, they can doom the Democrats’ prospects in the midterms just by staying home.

If Democrats want to regain the ground they’ve lost with Millennial and Gen Z voters — which is clearly a political imperative — then they must start delivering results, and soon.

Some Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have suggested that President Biden should take executive action to forgive student loan debt before November as a way of courting younger voters. But quite apart from the question of whether such an action might alienate older voters, it’s unclear that it would even be sufficient to win back younger voters.

The far more important — and far more difficult — task for Democrats is to achieve results on basic quality-of-life issues, starting with getting runaway inflation under control. Unless the Democrats can demonstrate basic competency and show that they can use their unified control of the federal government to deliver substantive results for young voters, Millennials and Gen Zers are not going to deliver their votes to Democrat candidates in the midterms.

David Grasso is the CEO of Bold TV, a nonprofit media company dedicated to understanding crypto, the digital economy, and reaching personal financial freedom.

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