They like him, they really like him: Biden and the youth vote

They like him, they really like him: Biden and the youth vote
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The “Democrats in disarray” narrative is a favorite of some news media. It’s a staple of the Sunday TV shows and always hits a fever pitch right before elections, including the 2018 midterms when Democrats ended up winning more than 40 House seats and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Gaetz, Greene tout push to oust Cheney: 'Maybe we're the leaders' Free Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech MORE (D-Calif.) took control of the gavel again. It was also dominant in the lead-up to the 2020 general election when Democrats relegated former President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE to one term — no easy feat — and took back control of the Senate by picking up two hotly contested seats in traditionally red Georgia.

A core component of this clickbait approach to politics is the thesis that Democrats are alienating younger voters by supporting moderate policies that aren’t bold enough, keeping older members in positions of leadership and, crucially, refusing to nominate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Sanders on Cheney drama: GOP is an 'anti-democratic cult' MORE (I-Vt.), who is an older elected official himself.

But a recent poll shows, once again, all the panic was for naught. Young people like Joe Biden. In fact, they like him a lot.


The Harvard Youth Poll from the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School showed that 59 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of President BidenJoe BidenDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Sasse to introduce legislation giving new hires signing bonuses after negative jobs report Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE’s performance so far. The highest marks came from young people of color: 77 percent approval among Blacks and 70 percent among Hispanics. It also represents an astounding turnaround from the 34 percent approval that Trump received at the same time in his term.

There were several other notable findings from the survey of 2,500 people, including that Biden ranks above former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush with a 63 percent approval rating from college voters. Young Americans don’t just like Biden personally, they like what he’s doing for the country. His highest marks came for management of the COVID-19 pandemic, at 65 percent approval. When it comes to climate change — often the most important issue to young voters — 58 percent are happy with his handling of the problem, which includes rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate and a bold new climate agenda that’s even getting support from an unlikely sector: corporate America

Biden is also above 50 percent approval for his handling of education, race relations, health care, mental health, national security and, crucially, the economy. 

Left-wing progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBattle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers Overnight Energy: Update on Biden administration conservation goals | GOP sees opportunity to knock Biden amid rising gas prices | Push for nationwide electric vehicle charging stations The Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won MORE (D-N.Y.) echoed the sentiments expressed in the youth poll. She told a town hall meeting that “the Biden administration and President Biden have definitely exceeded expectations that progressives had.” She added, “I think a lot of us expected a much more conservative administration.”

Against this backdrop, it’s hard to figure out why the expectation was different from the reality. Biden’s political positions have been evolving for decades, shifting more to the left on critical issues such as criminal justice reform, gay marriage, health care and national security. And if you paid close attention to the past election season, Biden laid out plans that may have seemed moderate compared to others in the Democratic primary field, but that were still very progressive by historical standards. And he has stuck to those plans, not falling under the spell of the Democratic Party’s far left, as much of the mainstream media would have you believe


As John Della Volpe, a former Biden youth vote adviser, commented, “Joe Biden hasn’t really changed much but it’s like the ‘boy next door’ phenomenon: You take a second look and you see these qualities you never appreciated before.” That’s true for young and old voters alike. 

Consider his high marks from 18- to 29-year-olds and Biden’s general approval ratings in the latest Fox News poll, where he has a 54 percent approval rating overall, including 95 percent approval among Democrats, 86 percent of Blacks, 72 percent of Hispanics, 63 percent of suburban women and 59 percent of women overall.

It’s almost as if a poll-tested agenda is bound to be a winner.

From Biden’s positions on COVID-19 response to the economy to health care to guns to climate, the president is seeing the payoff from taking actions that are popular. And he’s staying true to his tried-and-tested approach of finding a position that satisfies the greatest number of constituents. More politicians would benefit from taking a page out of his playbook.

The Harvard poll showed a significant uptick in optimism among young voters, with a dramatic rise in the number of those who consider themselves to be politically active. That comes as no surprise when you consider the trauma of the Trump years and the promise that the Biden years bring. Let’s hope this is just the beginning. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.