Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials

Joe BidenJoe BidenBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Former New York state Senate candidate charged in riot MORE has a millennial problem.

The former vice president is holding onto his perch atop the polls, but strategists and political observers say he needs to do better with younger voters if he wants to win the Democratic nomination next year.

A Pew Research Center poll out this past week shows that while Biden is doing well with voters age 50 and up, he is struggling to win over adults under the age of 30.


The survey showed that 7 percent of young voters support him. In that same demographic, 24 percent of voters backed Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Lawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (I-Vt.) and 18 percent supported Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPelosi disputes Biden's power to forgive student loans Warren hits the airwaves for Newsom ahead of recall election Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (D-Mass.).

Biden’s weak spot is in stark contrast to former President Obama’s popularity with young voters, many of whom gravitated toward his “hope and change” mantra. 

"If he wants to reactivate the Obama coalition that helped Obama win two elections, he won't be able to do it without younger voters," one Democratic strategist said. "There's just no way around that.”

“And he’s got to do something to draw these voters in,” the strategist added. “He has to figure out a way to meet them where they are.”

Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko went a step further.

“He has a serious issue on his hands,” Parkhomenko said. “The majority of his support comes from people who know him, know his name and are being asked who they support in the early months of his campaign.”


Still, Biden has polled well with black millennial voters, at least shortly after he launched his campaign in April.

A Morning Consult survey released in May found that Biden had a lead over Sanders among black voters age 18-29. But the survey highlighted a marked difference between young white voters and black voters: Sanders still bested Biden with that demographic, 35 percent to 22 percent. 

Part of the problem, strategists say, is that many white millennials are mostly looking for candidates who will change the system. Strategists point to the 2016 presidential campaign, when candidates largely chose Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Women's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement MORE for that very reason. They were drawn to Sanders’s policy proposals, including free college, even as Clinton tried to portray those plans as unrealistic. 

Biden could run into a similar problem, strategists say.

Parkhomenko, who served as an aide on Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 campaigns, chalked it up to Biden’s policy positions.

While Democrats like Biden and respect him, Parkhomenko said, “his policies are why there’s a lack of enthusiasm among millennials.”

“Many of them are not just reflective of where we are,” he added. “Many of them are not reflective of a Democrat running in 2019 under Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE.”

At an event in Las Vegas last month, Biden was asked how he can attract younger Democratic voters who are looking for “radical, revolutionary change.” 

But he scoffed at the idea.

They’re looking for somebody who, in fact, can articulate what they believe and who is in the mainstream,” Biden said, according to the Nevada Independent. “They’re not all — and this is not a hit on Bernie, my word — but this is not a generation of socialists.” 

Ben LaBolt, a longtime spokesman during the Obama White House and the president’s national campaign spokesman during his successful 2012 reelection bid, said Biden should appear in nontraditional, nonpolitical media outlets to get his message out to millennials — something Obama did time and again on the campaign trail and during his time in the White House.

Biden should also “roll out an inspiring agenda” on issues millennials care about, LaBolt said, from a climate change proposal to “a humanitarian approach to the immigration crisis, a plan not just to alleviate student debt but provide a world class education that helps them succeed in the 21st century economy.”

LaBolt added that Biden should “show that his vision is not about a return to normalcy but a plan to secure the future.” 

Above all, Biden has to be authentic, strategists say.

“Millennials are going to be attracted to who they're going to be attracted to,” said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo. “When it comes to millennials and young voters, you have to be true to yourself and let the chips fall where they may.”