The slippage is consistent with other polling, which portrays an across-the-board polling rut for the president. And it’s a warning sign ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when Democrats will be trying to convince younger voters — who are more likely to sit out non-presidential elections — to show up at the polls.
“You can clearly make the argument that, along with other important subgroups, young people were essential to Biden’s victory and the Democratic Senate,” said John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.
But despite Biden’s slide, Della Volpe said young Americans are not unplugging from politics a year after helping him defeat then-President Donald Trump. A little more than a third, 37 percent, said they definitely plan to vote next November — a number that Della Volpe noted was equal to what the Harvard Youth Poll measured in spring 2018, just before the Democratic midterm wave.
“I see them continuing to be engaged politically,” Della Volpe said.
Younger Americans are more difficult to survey, and the Harvard Youth Poll is perhaps the most rigorous measurement of their political opinions. In other polls, younger people make up only a small part of the sample, though the trendline is similar.
The most recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, conducted Nov. 20-21, found Biden’s approval among voters under 35 was 50 percent, compared to 42 percent disapproval. A Fox News poll conducted a week earlier showed Biden’s approval rating upside-down among young voters: 44 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove.
Meanwhile, even with Biden falling, Democrats still have an edge over Republicans among younger Americans. In the Harvard Youth Poll, approval of Republicans in Congress was 15 points lower, 31 percent, than Biden’s mark. And while Americans aged 18 to 29 were split on Biden’s personal favorability — 46 percent view him favorably, while 44 percent have an unfavorable opinion — that’s still miles ahead of Trump, who’s favorable rating is just 30 percent. More than three-in-five Americans under 30, 63 percent, have an unfavorable opinion of Trump.
The most popular politician among Americans under 30 continues to be Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) The 80-year-old independent tied Biden’s favorable rating of 46 percent, but only 34 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Sanders.
The Harvard Youth Poll was conducted Oct. 26-Nov. 8. It consists of 2,109 interviews with Americans aged 18-29, conducted in English and Spanish using both probability and non-probability sampling frames. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Other polls are limited in their portrayal of younger voters ahead of next year’s midterms. In last week’s POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, Democrats held a 30-point lead on the generic ballot among voters under age 35, 57 percent to 27 percent. But a Quinnipiac University poll in mid-November found voters younger than 35 were split: 36 percent said they wanted Democrats to control the House of Representatives after the election, 32 percent wanted Republicans in charge and 32 percent were undecided.