President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have undergone a significant drop since the start of his tenure, especially when it comes to young voters.
An Economist/YouGov poll published this week found that Biden has an overall approval rating of 41 percent, with 50 percent of Americans disapproving of his job performance as president. Among voters between the ages of 18 and 29, however, there’s an even wider gap — 50 percent within that age bracket also disapprove of Biden’s job performance, but only 27 percent say they currently approve.
While a few other age groups surveyed in the poll have a higher disapproval rating for Biden, the net approval-disapproval rating of -23 among voters under the age of 30 is the most significant among all age brackets, the poll found.
The plunge in Biden’s approval rating among younger voters over the past year is drastic. From the time he first entered office in January to this week’s poll, Biden’s approval rating in that age group has gone down by 50 points.
Biden’s ability to secure the votes of young people was driven in large part due to their disdain for former President Donald Trump, The Economist noted. Indeed, Biden led Trump by 24 points in the 2020 presidential race among voters 18-29 years old.
But according to The Economist, Biden’s failure to impress young people while in office may pose a threat to his presidency.
“The precise reason for the decline is hard to nail down,” said G. Elliott Morris, a data journalist for The Economist. “It’s most likely that there’s a confluence of factors that make Biden appear as not progressive enough for young adults (which is probably true?) that have driven down their views of him as the contrast vs Trump wanes.”
Biden’s failure to deliver on key promises he made to young voters during his 2020 presidential campaign may be one of the reasons his poll numbers are plummeting.
“If only young voters were telling Biden exactly what they want that he could do without congressional action,” the People for Bernie Twitter account wrote regarding the numbers.
In other words, Biden’s refusal to provide debt relief to tens of millions of Americans with outstanding student loans — which economists say he could do right now, without congressional approval — may be a major reason behind his declining support. While Biden has delivered some student loan relief to individuals with disabilities or those who have been defrauded by creditors, he has largely ignored a campaign promise he made last year to cancel at least $10,000 of student loans per person
When asked about this promise last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was waiting for congressional action. The president would be “happy” to reduce loans by that rate, she said, as soon as a bill is passed by Congress and sent to his desk. Of course, as long as the Senate filibuster remains in place, there is an extraordinarily low chance that this will ever happen.
It’s also possible that Biden faces heat from young voters due to his plan to end the student loan payment pause that was implemented early in the pandemic. Payments are set to restart in February, a move that the administration has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic about; the White House recently went as far as to call restarting student loan payments a “high priority.”
“I’m angry at Biden backtracking on a key pillar he ran on: cancellation [of student debt], said Debt Collective member Wen Zhuang. “I’m fearing what the end of [the] moratorium will do for so many people.”
It’s also possible that Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative is influencing his low approval rating among young people. Initially touted as a transformative spending plan, the initiative has been watered down tremendously. The proposal originally included a number of programs that would help young families — including free universal pre-K, programs to make childcare more affordable, a national paid family and medical leave program, and an extension of monthly child tax credit payments. But a number of those items have been removed or substantially reduced in the past several months.
While the House of Representatives passed a Build Back Better bill that would include family and medical leave, for example, right-wing Democrats in the Senate have refused to support the proposal unless other critical elements of the bill are cut out.
The Build Back Better bill’s delay may also be a factor influencing Biden’s low approval rating among young families. December is the final month for child tax credit payments to be issued — but unless the reconciliation package is passed sometime in the next week, it’s unlikely that those payments will continue at the start of the new year.
Biden’s low approval ratings among young voters may have a significant impact on the 2022 midterm elections. In the same Economist/YouGov poll, young voters were split on who they wanted to win next fall, with 30 percent saying they preferred a Democratic candidate and 33 percent saying they would vote for a Republican. Twenty percent said they were unsure.
Without the help of young voters, Biden and Democrats may have slim chances of retaining control of Congress after the midterm races.
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