President Joe Biden is getting props among youth voters aged 18-29, according to the Harvard Youth Poll released late last week. Biden garners a 59% job approval overall from young Americans, but among college voters, Biden’s 63% approval rating is the highest recorded in the 21-year history of the survey. In 2003, George W. Bush notched a 61% approval rating with college voters, and Barack Obama received a 57% approval among college voters in 2016.
Biden’s high marks are a notable reversal from the 34% approval he received from youth voters in last year’s Harvard Youth Poll, which was conducted in March while the Democratic primary was still ongoing. In fact, Biden’s favorables are so high among young Democratic voters, now at 85%, that they rival those of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who enjoys a 75% favorability rating with Democratic youth voters.
Biden’s strong performance among youth voters also stands in stark contrast to their views of Donald Trump. Nearly a third of young voters, 30%, say history will ultimately conclude Trump was “the worst president ever.” Hear, hear! Just 26% rated Trump’s presidency favorably (best, great, good) while 54% rated it unfavorably (bad, terrible, worst), and 11% said he would be viewed as an average president.
Generally speaking, far more young GOP voters view themselves as supporters of the Republican Party, 42%, than the 25% who identify as Trump supporters first. Still 56% of young Republicans said they wanted Trump to play a “key role” in the future of the GOP, while 22% disagreed. By another measure, only 61% of young voters who cast a ballot for Trump said they wanted him to remain active in the GOP.
Overall, young Americans are also far more likely to be politically engaged than they were a decade ago. Within the first year of Obama’s presidency, just 24% of youth voters reported being politically active. But just a dozen years later, that number has grown by half, to 36% now. Young Black Americans are the most politically active group at 41%.
Youth voters are also far more hopeful about the nation’s future now than they were in the first year of Trump’s tenure, with just 31% in 2017 saying they were hopeful about America’s future while 67% expressed being fearful. Now 56% say they are hopeful—an increase in optimism that extends across demographic groups but is far more pronounced among youth of color. The Institute of Politics writes:
While the hopefulness of young whites has increased 11 points, from 35% to 46% — the changes in attitudes among young people of color are striking. Whereas only 18% of young Blacks had hope in 2017, today 72% are hopeful (+54). In 2017, 29% of Hispanics called themselves hopeful, today that number is 69% (+40).
But the divide over young voters’ embrace of Biden and rejection of Trump is one of the most interesting pieces of the poll. As the Republican Party becomes even more Trumpy, it seems poised to move even further away from the preferences of youth voters.
Meanwhile, Biden’s growing appeal seems to demonstrate the opposite phenomenon. John Della Volpe, a former youth vote adviser to the Biden campaign and the polling director at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, compared Biden’s popularity to a “boy next door” phenomenon.
“You take a second look and you see these qualities that you never appreciated before,” Della Volpe told the Washington Post. “You knew he kind of had the same values but he shares much more of your values that you might have thought before—certainly in the way he thinks about government and America and people are responding to how quickly he’s been able to instill some of his values in the practice of government.”