Voters under 30 want politicians over 70 gone, all of them, in both parties.
Alexandra Chadwick went to the polls in 2020 with the singular goal of ousting Donald J. Trump. A 22-year-old first time voter, she saw Joseph R. Biden Jr. as more of a safeguard than an inspiring political figure, someone who could stave off threats to abortion access, gun control and climate policy.
Two years later, as the Supreme Court has eroded federal protections on all three, Ms. Chadwick now sees President Biden and other Democratic leaders as lacking both the imagination and willpower to fight back. She points to a generational gap — one she once overlooked but now seems cavernous.
“How are you going to accurately lead your country if your mind is still stuck 50, 60 or 70 years ago?” Ms. Chadwick, a customer service representative in Rialto, Calif., said of the many septuagenarian leaders at the helm of her party. “It’s not the same, and people aren’t the same, and your old ideas aren’t going to work as well anymore.”
While voters across the spectrum express rising doubts about the country’s political leadership, few groups are as united in their discontent as the young.
A survey from The New York Times and Siena College found that just 1 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds strongly approve of the way Mr. Biden is handling his job. And 94 percent of Democrats under 30 said they wanted another candidate to run two years from now. Of all age groups, young voters were most likely to say they wouldn’t vote for either Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump in a hypothetical 2024 rematch.
The numbers are a clear warning for Democrats as they struggle to ward off a drubbing in the November midterm elections. Young people, long among the least reliable part of the party’s coalition, marched for gun control, rallied against Mr. Trump and helped fuel a Democratic wave in the 2018 midterm elections. They still side with Democrats on issues that are only rising in prominence.
But four years on, many feel disengaged and deflated, with only 32 percent saying they are “almost certain” to vote in November, according to the poll. Nearly half said they did not think their vote made a difference.
Interviews with these young voters reveal generational tensions driving their frustration. As they have come of age facing racial strife, political conflict, high inflation and a pandemic, they have looked for help from politicians who are more than three times their age.
Those older leaders often talk about upholding institutions and restoring norms, while young voters say they are more interested in results. Many expressed a desire for more sweeping changes like a viable third party and a new crop of younger leaders. They’re eager for innovative action on the problems they stand to inherit, they said, rather than returning to what worked in the past.
“Each member of Congress, every single one of them, has, I’m sure, lived through fairly traumatic times in their lives and also chaos in the country,” said John Della Volpe, who studies young people’s opinions as the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. “But every member of Congress has also seen America at its best. And that is when we’ve all come together. That is something that Gen Z has not had.”
When my generation said the same thing 30 years ago, we got Ross Perot. He got 19% of the vote in 1992, and Bill Clinton won with 43% of the vote for Poppy Bush's 37.5%. Famously, none of the candidates managed to get 50%+ in any of the 50 states.
The youngest candidate in touch with voters my age at the time? Clinton, who was 46 back then and appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show with his saxophone.
But I'm looking at this poll and I still see that folks 18-29 want major change, and half of them say there's no reason to vote.
So guess what? If you vote, you may not get what you want, but you'll make a difference. You don't vote, the people who do decide your fate. My answer to these kids is this: you know who does vote and who does get what they want?
People over 70.
Still hasn't occurred to the kids yet. It might after this midterm, I dunno.