Younger people have become disenchanted with President Joe Biden, the septuagenarian rapidly losing support with the demographic that was wary of him during the 2020 Democratic primary.
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On average, fewer than 3 in 10 adults under the age of 30 approve of Biden's job performance as president, and a majority disapproves, according to online polling conducted by the Economist and YouGov. Biden's net negative 21 approval rating with the demographic is his worst among any age group, the organizations found. On top of that, Biden has a net negative 17 rating among people aged between 30 and 44.
The Economist-YouGov findings suggest Biden's popularity is dropping fastest with younger people, who earlier this year rewarded him with a net 32 approval rating. Biden currently has a negative 5 rating among adults aged 45 to 64, and a negative 8 with those 65 and older.
The Economist-YouGov polling is not an outlier, aligning with Quinnipiac University data. In Quinnipiac's first national survey of Biden's presidency in February, 18- to 34-year-olds gave him a net 12 approval rating while he scored a net 15 rating from 35- to 49-year-olds. That plummeted to a net negative 10 among the former and a negative 21 with the latter last month.
And the numbers should concern Democrats before next year's midterm elections, as they bode poorly for 2022 turnout, a cycle in which the party will try to defend its slim congressional majorities against a historical trend that indicates it will shed seats.
The Economist-YouGov findings regarding Biden and younger people could be "noise," according to pollster Charles Franklin. That is because Biden's approval rating among adults younger than 30 was steady for three weeks before "unlikely" decreasing 8 points to 27%, his overall rating increased, and the age group was a small subset, so there is a higher margin of error.
Yet the Marquette Law School Poll director said it was "interesting" that 1 in 5 people younger than 30 consistently told the Economist-YouGov they have no opinion of Biden, compared to 9% of respondents more broadly.
"Suggests some disengagement among the young I hadn't suspected," he said.
Younger people are typically hyped as a powerful emerging voting bloc before disappointing political pundits by not casting ballots. But last year, half of the country's population under 30 participated in the election, an 11 percentage point spike from 39% in 2016, according to Tuft University's Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
Fellow pollster David Paleologos described younger people as "quiet force" who vote in higher numbers when "polarizing figures," including former President Donald Trump, are on the ticket.
"It's going to take a lot to keep young voters engaged and active in the midterm elections," he said.
Biden's younger people polling drop-off may be correlated with the college tuition provisions being stripped from his $1.85 trillion partisan social welfare and climate spending bill, according to Paleologos, Suffolk University Political Research Center's director. Biden originally proposed two years of free community college for eligible students.
"A lot of young people and even parents, some of whom are back in school getting degrees, or people who have nieces and nephews who have incurred large amounts of debt, were counting on that being in the soft infrastructure, the reconciliation bill," Paleologos said.
Biden's age has become a "drag" for younger people because the "progress that they expected with Biden's election isn't being met by the actual results," Paleologos added.
"And that perhaps his ability to bring people together isn't happening," he said.
The White House was pushed Friday on the climate agenda in Biden's Democrats-only spending bill, which is now stalled in the Senate — in part because of a member of his own party, West Virginia's Joe Manchin. The climate programs appeal to younger people motivated to vote by the policy issue, though several, such as those belonging to the Sunrise Movement, complain they do not go far enough. The framework was also the basis of Biden's pledge to the 26th United Nations climate summit.
"It's going to take more time than we anticipated, but that is the nature of policymaking, not just in the United States, but in many capitals around the world," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters en route to South Carolina, where Biden delivered a commencement address. "The president and many world leaders who are reading this or digesting it understand that, again, there are ups and downs in getting bills across the finish line."
And Psaki was needled earlier this week on Biden's commitment to canceling student loan debt before the COVID-19 pandemic repayment moratorium expires on Feb. 1. Last year, he endorsed forgiving $10,000 yet has since balked at the idea of executive action, calling on Congress to pass legislation instead.
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"We're still assessing the impact of the omicron variant. But a smooth transition back into repayment is a high priority for the administration," Psaki said this month as well. "The Department of Education is already communicating with borrowers to help them to prepare for return to repayment on Feb. 1 and has secured contract extensions with loan servicers."