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Biden’s problems with younger voters are glaring, poll finds

President Biden stands on stage as Vice President Harris introduces him during a campaign rally Wednesday at Girard College in Philadelphia.
Andrew Harnik
Getty Images
President Biden stands on stage as Vice President Harris introduces him during a campaign rally Wednesday at Girard College in Philadelphia.

Younger voters have been a crucial voting bloc for Democrats for decades.

Voters 18-29 years old made up roughly 1 in 6 voters in 2020, and President Biden won them by more than 20 points, according to exit polls. He won voters under 45, who were 40% of the electorate, by double-digits, too.

But surveys have found Biden struggling with the groups, and the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll underscores the depth of his problems with them.

It’s a reason why Biden is locked in a tight race with former President Donald Trump and falls behind when third-party candidates are introduced, according to the survey.

In a head-to-head matchup with Trump, Biden and Trump are in a statistical tie, with Biden narrowly ahead 50%-48%. He leads by just 4 points with voters under 45 and by 6 with Gen Z/Millennials.

But when independents Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West, as well as Green Party candidate Jill Stein are introduced, Biden trails Trump by 4 points. Trump leads by 6 with Gen Z/Millennials and by 8 with the under 45 group in this scenario.

“They don’t see a lot of connection to him,” Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the survey, said of younger voters. “They’re worried about the cost of living, which isn’t reserved just for them, but clearly, as they envision moving into adulthood, cost of living, housing costs, how to get into that next step seems to be an obstacle. … They’re seeing the economy as a lot of other voters do — laying it on Biden’s doorstep at the moment.”

Diving deeper into the issues Biden is facing with younger voters

Younger voters don’t approve of the job Biden is doing, don’t particularly like him very much, don’t think he has the mental fitness to be president and don’t think he’s handling the most important issues very well — be it the economy, immigration or the war between Israel and Hamas.


  • Just 24% of those 18-29 approve of the job he’s doing.
  • 62% have an unfavorable opinion of him, while Trump gets a net-positive rating — 49%-42%. That’s the highest favorability rating for Trump of any of the age groups. With voters overall, Trump has a slightly higher unfavorable rating (54%) than Biden (52%).

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve moved heavily toward Trump, though, because younger voters are among the most likely to have an unfavorable opinion of both Biden and Trump, so-called “double haters.”

“Where they end up is a question still,” Miringoff said, adding, “This is the unsatisfied, unattached, disliking-of-the-candidates group. So it’s not that they’re racing to Trump, they’re just not where Biden’s had this group in the past.”

  • Those under 45 and Gen Z/Millennials are the most likely to say they’ll skip the presidential line on their 2024 ballot (12%). Even more bad news for Biden: That’s roughly the same as nonwhites, people in big cities and the Northeast — all key Biden groups and areas.
  • Gen Z/Millennials are the least likely to say they’re definitely voting (69%).
  • Gen Z/Millennials are the most likely age group to say they’re casting their vote for RFK Jr. (11%).


There is a potential opening for Biden with the group:

  • Only 54% of Gen Z/Millennials say they have definitely made up their minds who they are voting for.

  • One in 5 of those under 45 say a guilty verdict for Trump would make them less likely to vote for the former president, although 1 in 5 also say they would be more likely to vote for Trump if he’s found not guilty. So they might be somewhat persuadable either way.

Why younger voters are so disillusioned with Biden

The economy

Prices are top of mind for voters overall. Despite strong signs in the economy, including low unemployment and wages outpacing inflation, people haven’t gotten used to a new normal post-pandemic.

When people are in a sour mood, especially on the economy, they tend to blame the president — even if it’s one of the things a president has the least control over.

Younger voters are even less happy than voters overall with how Biden is handling the economy:

  • A Marist poll from April found just 37% of voters 18-29 approved how Biden was handling the economy, compared to 42% overall.


Biden also gets low ratings on his handling of immigration, but, again, fewer younger voters approve of his handling of that than the population writ large:

  • An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from January found just 23% of voters 18-29 approved of his handling of immigration, compared to 29% overall.

His age and mental fitness

  • A recent New York Times/Siena poll found voters 18-29 were the most likely age group to think Biden is too old to be an effective president. A whopping 82% of them said so, 8-to-12 points higher than every other age group. That was more than 20 points worse than how they viewed Trump on the subject, though he’s only about 4 years younger.
  • An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from last year found younger voters were more likely to say they had a “real concern” about Biden’s mental fitness to be president. That was also true of recent Marist polls in the swing states of Georgia and North Carolina.

The Israel-Hamas war 

Despite widespread college campus protests this spring, the Israel-Hamas war is not the top issue for younger voters.

A Harvard youth poll found that inflation, health care and housing topped the list of concerns for those 18-29. But the war is yet another, high-profile topic that younger voters break with Biden on.

In the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey, those 18-29 were the most likely of any age group to say the U.S.:

  • is not giving enough humanitarian aid to Palestinians (40%) and
  • should cut off all support for Israel until there is a ceasefire (39%).

Forty-five percent of 18- to 29-year-olds think the U.S. is doing too much to provide military aid to Israel. Forty-eight percent of people 30 to 44 years old thought so, too.
Those views, though, are out of step with the strong majority of the country — and puts Biden in a bind.

Overall, 71% said either the U.S. should support Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas but should also use its influence to encourage Israel to protect Palestinians (48%) or that it should fully support all of Israel’s military actions against Hamas (23%).


More people are saying they’ve made up their minds about who they’re voting for

In April, 60% said they’d made up their minds. That rose to 64% last month and stands at 66% now.

Trump and Biden voters are equal in saying they already know who they’re voting for and nothing will change their minds (68% each).

Gen Z/Millennials and independents are the least likely to say their minds are made up, and 1 in 5 independent women said they are genuinely undecided, the most of any group.

Biden makes up some ground with college-educated and older voters

Biden continues to do better than he did in 2020 with older voters and white voters with college degrees, both men and women.

For example, Biden leads with Baby Boomers by 15 points over Trump even with the third-party candidates included. Trump won older voter groups in 2020.

Biden also has huge leads with college-educated white voters. In fact, there’s a net 54-point gap in support for Biden between whites with degrees and those without.

And these are groups that said they are among the most likely to vote.

“It’s the fourth inning, and there’s a lot of the game still left to be played,” Miringoff said. “The turnout is the hidden piece of this puzzle. This is not an election that’s grabbing people on either side. Trump has his base; Biden has his anti-Trump base, and the rest is sort of hanging out there.”

The survey of 1,261 adults was conducted May 21 to 23 by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 3.4 percentage points.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.