Young people are far from enthusiastic about voting for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — but they may just hold enough disdain for President Donald J. Trump to do so in big numbers anyway.
A Harvard Institute of Politics Youth Poll released Monday shows Biden — the Democratic presidential nominee — with a 33-point lead over Trump among 18- to 29-year-olds who say they are likely to vote. Biden’s advantage marks a 10-point jump from the lead he held over Trump among likely young voters in April, when the IOP released the spring edition of the poll.
While less than a third of young Biden voters said they are very enthusiastic about casting a ballot for the 77-year-old former vice president, young people still responded as more likely to turn out to vote than at this time in 2016. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they will “definitely be voting,” compared to just 47 percent in the same poll four years ago.
“A lot of people have been comparing 2020 to 2016, but what we’re seeing is, it actually compares better to 2008,” Justin Y. Tseng ’22, president of the Harvard Public Opinion Project — the student-led IOP program that produces the poll — said of the potential turnout.
The 2008 election, in which former President Barack Obama defeated the late United States Senator John McCain, marked the highest turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds since the census began tracking voter turnout in 1986. The demographic has consistently had the lowest voter turnout of any age group.
Young Trump voters are more enthusiastic about voting for their candidate than young Biden supporters, according to the poll. But the 60 percent to 27 percent lead that Biden holds over Trump among likely young voters is larger than the one held by Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, at this point four years ago.
Notably, 19 percent of likely young voters in 2016 responded that they would likely go for a third-party candidate; this year, that number is just 6 percent.
The survey’s questions and administration were overseen by longtime IOP pollster John Della Volpe, who is now working for the Biden campaign. HPOP analyzed the poll’s results after Della Volpe took leave from his main role at the IOP.
Biden failed to win over young voters in the Democratic primaries, when the demographic largely backed United States Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) instead. But the poll indicates that, despite his lukewarm enthusiasm numbers among young people, they could nonetheless be an important demographic for him in November.
A plurality of 23 percent of young people listed the economy as their top issue — a striking increase from the spring poll, when just 6 percent of respondents said it was the most important issue for them. However, in stark contrast to the strong marks that Trump receives from the electorate writ large on handling the economy, just 34 percent of young people responded that they trust the current president to manage the economy.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, which has now killed more than 200,000 Americans, the poll also showed that only a quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said they will “definitely” get a COVID-19 vaccine. Twenty-five percent of young Republicans say they will “definitely not” get a vaccine, while just 9 percent of young Democrats said they won’t get a dose.
—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.