Dec 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Poll: Young voter enthusiasm plummets from 2019

Share of young Americans who say they trust in Biden, Trump or neither to handle select issues
Data: Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

A poll out Tuesday offers a warning for presidential candidates hoping to tap into the youth vote in 2024.

Why it matters: Just 49% of 18-29 year-olds "definitely" plan on voting for president in 2024, down from 57% who said the same during the fall of 2019, according to the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School poll.

By the numbers: Younger Black Americans saw a sharp decline, with 38% saying they will "definitely vote" next year, compared to 50% in 2019.

  • Hispanic Americans also had a steep drop, with 40% saying they will "definitely vote" in 2024, compared to 56% in 2019.
  • While general election polling a year out is not predictive, 66% of Democrats say they will "definitely vote" in 2024, compared to 68% who said the same in 2019.
  • 56% of Republicans said they will "definitely vote," a 10-point decrease from the fall of 2019.

Zoom in: The poll also found that many young voters are skeptical about the leading 2024 candidates' ability to handle key issues, such as climate change, health care, gun violence, Ukraine, public safety and the Israel-Hamas war.

  • "As the 2024 campaign season kicks into high gear, candidates up and down the ballot would be wise to embrace the opportunity to listen to – and re-engage this generation," IOP Director Setti Warren said in a news release.

State of play: Young voters, who are expected to comprise a significant part of the electorate next year, have voted solidly Democratic in recent elections. Strong turnout in 2020 and 2022 contributed to Democratic wins.

  • President Biden holds an 11-point lead over former President Trump in a hypothetical matchup among voters under 30, according to the poll.
  • When independent candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West — along with theoretical candidate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — are introduced, Biden's lead shrinks.
  • Among all young Americans, Biden leads by four points in a hypothetical matchup between Biden (29%), Trump (25%), Kennedy (10%) West (3%) and Manchin (2%). 31% said that they didn't know.

Between the lines: Most young voters (69%) who support Biden over Trump said that their vote is more in "opposition to Donald Trump becoming president again" than "support for President Biden and his policies."

  • Among young voters who said they are likely to back Trump, 65% said that their support is driven by loyalty to Trump, while 35% say it is in opposition of Biden's policies.

Go deeper: Dems eye young voters for an edge in 2024

Methodology: The Harvard Youth Poll of 2,098 18-to-29-year-olds was conducted between Oct. 23 and Nov. 6. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 2.86%.

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