Young Voters Say Their Discontent Goes Deeper Than Israel and Gaza

Young Voters Say Their Discontent Goes Deeper Than Israel and Gaza

The energy on Michigan college campuses ahead of the 2022 midterms was electric, students said.

Armed with promises to protect abortion rights, Democratic candidates held large rallies on campus, drawing crowds more willing to cheer than protest. Students showed up in droves on Election Day — resulting in the highest youth voter turnout of any state and helping Democrats take full control of Michigan’s government for the first time in decades.

But ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary, the energy appears to have turned to apathy or anger. Young activists have been at the forefront of the ongoing backlash against President Biden’s strong support of Israel and his military campaign in Gaza, which began after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. The protest against US policy culminated in an attempt to encourage residents to vote “non-binding”. to send a message to Mr. Biden in the crucial state for the general election.

Interviews with more than two dozen students across the state revealed a deeper dissatisfaction not only with the incumbent president but also with the prospect of having to choose again between two candidates for decades – Mr. Biden and former President Donald J. Trump she.

“There was a tense atmosphere on campus,” said Adam Lacasse, co-chair of the College Democrats at the University of Michigan. “Many people are excluded from politics if they are not upset about what is going on and how the government is handling this conflict because they don’t want to get involved in it.”

National polls have reflected a similar sentiment for months: Voters under 30, who supported Mr. Biden by more than 20 points in 2020, are unenthusiastic about a rematch between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, who is heavily favored in the Republican primary Tuesday.

But for some young people in Michigan and elsewhere, Mr. Biden’s targeting of Israel is a new problem. Voters under 30 overwhelmingly expressed opposition to the conflict in a New York Times/Siena College poll in December, saying Israel had not done enough to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza and that the military campaign should stop.

Many college students in Michigan described the conflict as almost inevitable, regardless of where they stood on the foreign policy issue. Campus protests are commonplace and coverage of the war dominates their social media feeds.

Hussein Bazzi, 24, a student at Wayne State University, said he would vote “non-bindingly” to send a message to Mr. Biden: “that we want an immediate ceasefire.” Mr. Bazzi supported Mr. Biden in 2020, he is sure However, not sure if he will do so again in November. “If that doesn’t send a clear message to him,” he said, “then I don’t know what does.”

Mr Biden is still expected to easily win Tuesday’s primary. But the strength of its resistance will be closely watched as a sign of its support in November.

A poll commissioned in January by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV found that 15.6 percent of Michigan voters ages 18 to 29 had a favorable opinion of Mr. Biden.

“If you’re a Democratic incumbent running for re-election, young voters are an essential part of your coalition, and that’s why the numbers we’re finding in Michigan show that Joe Biden is really heading down a dangerous path right now,” said Richard Czuba, an independent pollster in Lansing, Michigan, who said Mr. Biden’s age was the main reason for the dissatisfaction.

Several college Democratic leaders in Michigan expressed concern that young people simply aren’t looking forward to 2024. Even a small blip in Mr Biden’s coalition, with voters staying home, could hurt his chances.

“I’m definitely not going to sugarcoat it: I’m personally nervous,” said Liam Richichi, vice president of the College Democrats at Michigan State University. He added that students appeared to be “bored by the prospects we have.”

“I’ve talked to a lot of people in the club, and something we’re trying to actively address is the possibility of low voter turnout,” he added, suggesting the group could put emphasis on voting rounds like the Senate election in November.

The Biden campaign used a few surrogates to reach young people before Tuesday: Rep. Sara Jacobs of California held a discussion at the University of Michigan and Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland led a virtual rally with students.

Alyssa Bradley, the Biden campaign’s communications director in Michigan, said Mr. Biden has taken “historic actions to support young Americans,” pointing to his passage of climate policy, forgiving millions of dollars in student loan debt and his support for abortion access , which she said was a “stark contrast” to Mr. Trump.

“Our rights, our future and our democracy are at stake in this election, and we will continue to engage young people to prevent Donald Trump from returning to the White House, just as we did in 2020,” she said.

However, some young people said in interviews that they were unaware of the president’s record on issues they care about. This is part of a messaging challenge that the campaign is trying to solve by expanding its digital presence. (Mr. Biden made his first TikTok post this month.)

“I recognize Americans’ right to vote, but we also have the right not to, especially if you don’t agree with any of the candidates,” said Aiden Duong, a 19-year-old student at Michigan State University who was not part of the ” “unbound” effort. He said he had no plans to support Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden in November, citing their age and what he saw as inaction on climate change, a key issue for him.

Listen to Michigan, the group of mostly young organizers pushing the “non-binding” protest vote has tried to capitalize on Democratic discontent by appearing on campus, but has at times struggled to reach that audience . The primary comes in a week when many Michigan students are on spring break and many students still on campus were unaware of the election.

Finally, last week, around 100 people turned out for an “unaffiliated” rally on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. Organizers encouraged participants to line up in a large circle to take up more space. A march to the polls at Kalamazoo College organized by Listen to Michigan drew about 15 students Saturday.

Mr Biden said on Monday he hoped for a ceasefire within the next week. But some students who support the effort say nothing will change their minds about Mr. Biden. Salma Hamamy, a student at the University of Michigan who has organized pro-Palestinian protests there, said that despite her support for Mr. Biden in 2020, she would not do so again.

“To me, he is irredeemable — he lost my vote because I vote for him and basically say I agree with his actions,” said Ms. Hamamy, 22. “If that means Trump gets elected, give I blame the Democrats party for allowing this to happen.”

But students who support Mr. Biden argue that an accurate comparison of the two candidates will be enough to convince young people, even if their fellow students remain skeptical as November approaches.

Immaculata James, a co-chair of the College Democrats at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, pointed to the Biden administration’s work on areas such as college debt relief and health care costs by encouraging students to ask questions: “Also if this is not the case.” “A very exciting choice. What does your future look like under Trump compared to under Biden?”

Donovan Greene, a Kalamazoo College graduate who took part in the “Listen to Michigan” march, said she supported Mr. Biden in 2020, calling him the “lesser of two evils” but voted “non-committal” because of his behavior in the primary “ from Israel policy.

But Ms Greene said that in her “final moments of desperation” she would consider supporting him again in November, saying: “The changes that have taken place socially and economically in the US under Donald Trump’s presidency have been clearly what I don’t want to see.”

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2024-02-27 23:08:35