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Young Voters Sour on Biden, Prefer Trump to Handle Israel-Hamas War in Latest Harvard IOP Youth Poll

By Thomas J. Mete, Crimson Staff Writer

Young voters believe that former President Donald Trump is better suited to navigate the Israel-Hamas War, choosing him over President Joe Biden by 5 percentage points in the latest iteration of the Harvard Institute of Politics Youth Poll.

The results were reported on Tuesday as a part of IOP’s biannual youth poll, conducted by the Harvard Public Opinion Project. The national survey of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 was conducted between Oct. 23 and Nov. 6.

The poll, which surveyed 2,098 young Americans, suggests another hurdle for Biden’s re-election chances, reporting that Biden’s support among young voters had fallen substantially since the IOP’s spring 2020 youth poll.

In the spring 2020 poll, Biden led Trump by 23 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup. But in a hypothetical 2024 rematch crowded with third party candidates — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ’76, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and former Harvard professor Cornel R. West ’73 — Biden leads Trump by only 4 percentage points.

Just 35 percent of young voters said they approved of Biden’s performance as president, reflecting a consistent decline in approval since his election in 2020.

While slightly better, only 36 percent of voters said they approved of Vice President Kamala Harris’s performance.

Adding to the challenges of the Biden-Harris re-election campaign, less than 50 percent of young voters — the most Democratic-leaning voting group by age — “definitely” plan on casting a ballot in 2024.

The decline in likely young voters was more pronounced among voters of color, with turnout for Black Americans and Hispanic Americans dropping 12 and 16 percentage points, respectively, relative to the 2020 election.

The poll’s results suggest that the record turnout among young voters and voters of color which propelled Biden to the White House in 2020 may not materialize again in 2024.

Ethan L. Jasny ’25, the student chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project, said candidates need to better motivate young voters for youth turnout to rebound to 2020 levels.

“One year out from the 2024 election, our poll makes it clear that the youth vote cannot be taken for granted,” he said in a press release Tuesday. “For turnout in 2024 to match the record numbers we saw in 2020, candidates must ensure that the values and energy of young Americans are reflected in their campaigns.”

Young voters said they lacked confidence in both Biden and Trump to address some of the nation’s most critical issues, including gun violence and the war in Ukraine. More than one third of young voters said that they trust neither Biden or Trump to lead on 12 of the 13 policy areas tested by the poll.

“From a lack of trust in leaders on a variety of critical issues such as climate change, gun violence, and the war in the Middle East, to worries about the economy and AI, young people’s concerns come through loud and clear in our new poll,” Setti D. Warren, the director of the IOP, said in the press release.

Even with broad distrust in both presidents ahead of the 2024 election, surveyed voters said they trusted Biden over Trump on climate change, abortion, and protecting democracy, and Trump over Biden on the economy, national security and defense, and strengthening the working class.

The IOP will conduct additional polls this spring ahead of the 2024 presidential election in November.

Correction: December 6, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the IOP will conduct a final poll in the spring ahead of the 2024 presidential election. In fact, they will conduct multiple polls.

—Staff writer Thomas J. Mete can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @thomasjmete.

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