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What Polls Really Show About Trump Gains with Gen-Z Voters

Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2023
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by Walter Samuel
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AMAC Exclusive – By Walter Samuel

young voters waiting in line

Is Joe Biden losing young voters? Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) has sought to provide some clarity on the question with a poll aimed exclusively at measuring sentiment among 18- to 29-year-olds. The results seem to rebut the notion that Donald Trump is suddenly winning a landslide among younger voters, but do provide some evidence that Trump is making enough gains to significantly influence the outcome of a potential rematch with Biden.

In a few recent polls, sub-samples for voters under 30 have shown major shifts toward Donald Trump, some even finding the former President leading Biden, albeit often with third-party support above 20 percent. Skeptics, however, have pointed to recent election results, where Democrat margins in college towns have if anything grown more lopsided, and exit polls from Ohio’s recent abortion referendum which had well over 70% of those under 30 voting to enshrine legal abortion in the state constitution. They argue that polling is increasingly broken, especially for young voters who do not answer their phones, producing unrepresentative samples.

Harvard’s poll attempts to reconcile this apparent incongruity by using a weighted sample of 2000 respondents. This allows the IOP to produce what should be a more demographically representative sample without the large margin of error present in polls of the general population, which often rely on subsamples of under 100 respondents.

The IOP poll shows Biden leading by a margin of 11% among all 18-29-year-olds, 15% among registered voters in that age group, and 24% among those certain to vote when respondents were asked about a two-way race between Trump and Biden.

When respondents were presented with other candidate choices aside from Trump and Biden, the results show that Biden would lose more support than Trump to a third party. That said, it probably makes the most sense to focus on the results when respondents just have Biden or Trump to choose from, as third-party support often fails to materialize in practice.

On first examination, the margin among likely voters, 57%-33% seems remarkably similar to the 2020 CNN exit polls, which showed Joe Biden defeating Donald Trump by 60%-36% among voters 18-29.

This would seem to indicate that there has been no shift in young voters after all. However, one of the major problems with analyzing age in polls is that it is not static. Voters who were 18-29 in 2008 were 30-41 years old in 2020. Those same exit polls showed a substantial age split within the 18-29 range in 2020, with voters 18-23 going for Biden by a lopsided 65%-31% while those between 25 and 29 did so by only 54%-43%.

Voters who were 25-29 in 2020 will be between the ages of 29 and 34 in 2024, so the IOP poll is actually measuring a mixture of the voters who were 18-24 in 2020 and a new coterie who were too young to vote. Assuming that the new coterie are homogenous with their elders, a 57%-33% would mean that Biden has lost 8% from his 65%-31% victory in 2020, while Trump has gained 2%.

There is some evidence that the youngest voters today, those who were too young to vote in 2020, are slightly more Republican than their predecessors.

While 18-24-year-olds were more Democratic in 2020 than 25-29-year-olds, the reverse was true during the 2022 midterms. In 2022, Democrats won 25-29-year-olds 65%-33%, but only carried 18-24-year-olds 61%-36%.

A real, but moderate swing to Donald Trump among 18–29-year-olds would be directly in line with the trends in American politics over the past two decades. If 2020 demographics had existed for the 2008 election, Barack Obama would have defeated John McCain by 57% to 42%. Republicans never began to win African Americans or the younger voters who cast ballots for Obama, and a majority of Latinos still vote for Democrats.

However, Republicans, and especially Donald Trump, made enough gains to ensure that the demographic “emerging Democratic majority” remained forever over the horizon. It would be as shocking for Donald Trump not to make gains among 18-29-year-old and nonwhite voters (and given demographics it is hard to make gains with the former without also winning over some of the latter), as it would be for him to win them outright.

The IOP also asked 18-29-year-olds which candidate they trusted more on a litany of issues, and far from indicating an earthquake, they look remarkably like what we would expect from their parents. While neither candidate scored impressively well, Donald Trump did the best on national security, the economy, immigration, and crime, exactly the issues where the media would have everyone believe younger voters are most left-wing.

Joe Biden enjoys large leads on “protecting democracy,” abortion, education, climate change, healthcare, and gun violence, along with a marginal lead on Ukraine. Surprisingly, Donald Trump enjoys a lead on immigration and “strengthening the working class,” in both cases receiving more support than he receives in two-way contests with Joe Biden. On national security and the economy, he enjoys lopsided leads, and even when it comes to the Israel-Hamas war, leads Biden.

What this means is that Donald Trump, while not per se having an obvious path to winning 18-29-year-olds, does have a clear path to a substantial improvement, winning as much as 40% compared with 31% in 2020.

While that would be well below the earthquake hinted at in other polls with small samples, the 2020 election was decided on the margins. Donald Trump does not need to win groups he lost by 34% to win. Losing them by “only” 24% is more than enough when the deciding states were lost by less than 2%.

Paradoxically, not needing to actually “win” young voters makes the Trump campaign’s task easier. If winning the general election required winning a majority of young voters, then the Trump campaign would have to win over those who agree with Biden and the Democrats. If, however, “only” losing voters 18-29 by a margin of 61%-38% is sufficient to deliver the Electoral College, then the Biden campaign has to consider any number below 62% or so a defeat, and the Trump campaign can consider any number above 38% a success.

Even if, as seems plausible, the group that trusts neither candidate on the issues hides a large contingent that opposes Biden from the left, Trump does not need them in order to reach 40%, while Biden needs them to even maintain his current 57%, much less get anywhere close to his 2020 numbers.

Even on the issues where young voters trust Joe Biden over Donald Trump, the percentage who trust Biden lags even his support among all 18-29-year-olds (41%). The proportion trusting Biden over Trump to “protect democracy”(39%), on abortion (39%), education (39%), climate change (39%), and healthcare (36%) are all below the 41% who say they intend to vote for Biden no matter what. That means Biden is already receiving 2% of his support from voters who do not trust him over Donald Trump on any issue, and that still only gets him to an 11% lead. There is not a single issue where he gets closer than 18% of his 57% support among those “likely to vote.”

By contrast, more 18-29-year-old voters trust Donald Trump over Joe Biden on the economy (40%), national security (37%), immigration (34%), and strengthening the working class (34%), than are currently supporting him either among the age group at large (30%) or likely voters (33%). .

Merely winning voters who trust him over Joe Biden on the economy, and do not trust either candidate on anything else, would get Trump to a 57%-40% deficit, which would be an improvement on the 63%-35% by which the GOP lost the 2022 House vote among 18-29 year-olds. A year where the GOP nevertheless winning the popular vote nationally by 3%.

The Trump campaign therefore has the luxury of not needing to reach voters who prefer Joe Biden or who do not agree with Donald Trump on anything. It can just zero in on those who do prefer Donald Trump over Joe Biden on the economy and national security, with only a limited risk of losing voters on other issues.

By contrast, Biden will need to win the support of voters who not only do not trust him on anything, but trust Trump on some issues. Symbolic of the Biden team’s challenge is that the IOP poll shows Donald Trump is trusted over Biden to handle the conflict between Israel and Hamas, albeit by only 29%-25%.

These results match those James Carville found last month. Even though Carville’s sample had Biden comfortably leading Trump among Generation Z voters, those voters nevertheless trusted Donald Trump over Biden on a majority of issues. Both polls show a solid group of young voters who are not currently supporting Donald Trump, yet believe he would do a better job in at least one area than Joe Biden. By contrast, none of the undecided voters in either sample believed that Joe Biden would do a better job than Donald Trump at anything, while even some of those currently expressing support for Biden feel Trump would perform better on multiple issues.

What both Carville’s and the IOP’s research reveals is that Joe Biden is unlikely to be saved by mistaking intensity for breadth and going left, betting on some mass of young people yearning for a Marxist revolution against the Zionist settler colonialists.

Rather, the impact of the youth vote on the election is likely to be decided by their views of the economy and security, just as with their parents.

Walter Samuel is the pseudonym of a prolific international affairs writer and academic. He has worked in Washington as well as in London and Asia, and holds a Doctorate in International History

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PaulE
PaulE
7 months ago

I do enjoy some of these twisting and winding articles written by authors who use a pseudonym to hide who they really are. Just say Washington, D.C. insider and leave it at that. It’s more honest and direct.

By the end of the article, it all boils down to what the target demographic, in this case the vaunted 18- to 20-year-olds feel like when they wake up on election day or whenever they fill out their mail-in ballots. To say the target demographic is mercurial and easily distracted, and thus subject to change at a moment’s notice, would be a gross understatement. As such, this age segment of the population is basically a toss-up all the way to the actual election.

I do expect as Biden’s approval ratings continue to decline in 2024, that the administration and the Democrat Party and the MSM will pull out all the stops to try and prop up our puppet leader. Expect the administration to trot out all sorts of new promises of additional “freebies” in 2024 totry and sway the young and dumb voter base. As for the overall economy, expect the administration and MSM to put a lot of pressure on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates at least once in the June to September timeframe. Inflation be da*ned. All that matters is keeping a Democrat in the WH to continue our march towards socialism. All so Team Biden can say “See, the economy is strengthening and everything will be sunshine and rainbows if Biden is given a second term.”

Worst case scenario, Biden’s numbers continue to decline in 2024, and the Democrat Party takes matters into their own hands and forces Biden to announce he has decided against seeking a second term under threat of making public all the evidence of corruption that Team Obama knew Biden was doing as Obama’s Vice President. Don’t think for a second that Obama and the security agencies don’t have tons of evidence to hold over old Joe’s head. Thus, throwing both Biden and Harris under the bus to clear the way for who the Democrat Party bosses want as a 2024 presidential and V.P. candidate. The MSM will of course completely support the DNC and champion anyone the DNC selects. That’s just a given. Then we get to see how smart or stupid the American voters really are come election day, as well as see if the 18- to 20-year-olds can keep up with how they are being played by the Democrat Party.

Gabe Hanzeli kent wa
Gabe Hanzeli kent wa
7 months ago

look folks young people are stupid. they believe the garbage their teachers/ professors spew. once they start workign, buying property and paying real taxes they wake up pretty quickly.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
7 months ago

Its simple math, kids: if things cost more, you have less money, that means you buy less pot! But where is the GOP hammering any economic message? I think they’d rather have Biden over Trump! With Biden, they have him to blame for everything they don’t accomplish plus can fundraise off Biden Malaise. And… They hate Trump. I do not trust GOP leadership.

Lee M
Lee M
7 months ago

That age group has 2 issues to contend with. They are ignorant, using mostly social media for their information. Because of that, they are the most susceptible to propaganda, not yet having experience to understand that they are being manipulated. It will take a major crisis to have the impact necessary to change their minds. That crisis may not be survivable as a country.

Jeri
Jeri
7 months ago

I would like to add another category…don’t care…would not surprise me to find many many many leaning that direction.

gus
gus
7 months ago

I find it fascinating that abortion is such a “game changer” for many when there are so many other issues, way more important! And many of the pro-abortion women are way beyond child-bearing age! Are these folks mentally challenged in that they cannot think about all the other problems facing our nation? Really! Abortion is THAT important? C’mon!

johnh
johnh
6 months ago

Trump has a different strategy this time, he is not attending debates with other candidates but is attending rallies with people that already support him & do not question him. Will see how this works out, but I think people need to hear his stance on the important issues. And his comment to Hannitty.. that he would be a dictator only on Day One is a scary statement & especially the way he said it with fire in his eyes.

Randall L. Beatty
Randall L. Beatty
7 months ago

Trump is not perfect but compared to Biden when it comes to the next election I will never vote for Biden he is weak in so many areas.

Linda
Linda
7 months ago

Good article thanks for sharing….AMERICA is on the precipice of a Patriotic awakening never seen before…we are living in unprecedented times..Atheists ideology, socialism, MARXISM…our liberties are under assault. Thing are spinning out of control, seems as our voices no longer matters..Only thing keeping America is our US constitution meaningful words BIDEN is a TRAITOR and failure..TRUMP IS BEST ever PRESIDENT ???? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????AMERICA FIRST ULTRA MAGA PATRIOTS WILL never give up America

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