By Victor Shi
It is rare to see 21-year-olds like me who are enthusiastic about President Biden. Some think President Biden is too old. Others think he is not progressive enough. Many are unaware of what his administration has accomplished. Given that young voters will account for the largest age demographic in 2024, this should be concerning for the President. Simply put, if President Biden wants to win in 2024, he will need young people to turn out in large numbers to vote for him.
Difficult as it is for young people to feel passionate about voting for a second Joe Biden term, that does not mean young voters are tapping out of the political process altogether. In fact, given the actions that extreme Republicans have taken in recent years—from stripping the right to abortion to banning books in certain states to making it harder for young people to vote—the energy among young people in the electoral system has only grown. Remember the massive demonstrations in states like Tennessee, where Republicans refuse to take action on gun violence or the historic turnout in the 2022 midterm elections? Young people are making their voices heard across the nation.
But it is essential for young people to not only have something to vote against but also something and someone to vote for. In other words, more than ever before, young people must feel there is someone who is not just trying to make our lives harder—as Republicans are actively doing now—but someone who is fighting for us and delivering on the issues most important to us.
That person is Joe Biden.
His record speaks for itself. On nearly every issue that young people say they care about, President Biden has delivered in some way. On climate change, through his Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden has invested $369 billion in tackling the climate crisis. Because of such investments, the United States is now on track to cut climate pollution in half by 2030. And, despite a Supreme Court that struck down his original student loan forgiveness program, President Biden has continued to find alternatives to relieve the burden for student loan borrowers. On issue after issue, the President has made significant strides for young people—even with a narrow majority in Congress in his first two years and a hostile GOP majority in the House since the midterms.
Yet, there is still a disconnect between what President Biden has achieved and the attitudes young people hold toward his administration. According to a recent New York Times poll, only 48 percent of those between the ages of 18 to 25 have a very favorable or favorable attitude toward President Biden. And although the number is comparably higher than the same poll a year ago—by ten points—it is still far from where it should be.
Efforts to inform young people and transform their view of President Biden are already happening, but it’s going to take a lot more to get young people to embrace him.
To start, Biden and his reelection campaign should not shy away from his age. In the same New York Times poll, the largest concern for 18-25-year-olds was his age, with 40% of respondents listing it as the top reason why they would prefer someone else. The administration and campaign have started rebranding President Biden as an 80-year-old who will not back down to Republicans, as seen through their “Dark Brandon” visuals. We’ve also seen President Biden talk about his age more openly and light-heartedly, recently joked, “The only thing I bring to this career after my age…is a little bit of wisdom.”
Both are necessary and good developments, but it’s not enough. The genuine Joe Biden needs to come through as the empathetic, witty, and quippy person he is. As someone who has seen him speak in person, such characteristics only come when he is natural. Rather than giving prepared remarks and speeches, President Biden should go to college campuses and talk with students. He should engage in fewer speeches and more town halls and roundtable discussions, where he can be his authentic self. If young people can see President Biden is like their grandparents, decent, kind, hardworking, and cares deeply about them and their futures—and can crack a few jokes—it can go a long way.
It can’t stop there, though. Beyond interacting with young people across the country on college campuses, the President can — and must — meet young people in other ways too. And that means going to unconventional media platforms. More than ever before, young people do not watch cable news or read traditional media. Instead, the majority of young people consume their information through newer platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. The more President Biden can collaborate with young influencers on those platforms and bring what he is doing to them, the more young minds he can reach and persuade.
Research shows that, across the board, the most trusted messengers aren't parents, teachers, or elected officials. It’s peers. This is especially true for young people. Having young influencers who can humanize President Biden and amplify his accomplishments is an important step in not only educating other young people but also making them feel enthusiastic about what President Biden has done and who he is. And it seems like the Biden administration understands this after they briefed young influencers before the 2022 midterm elections. Going forward, this should be happening on a much more frequent basis and with even more young influencers.
Young people have never been more fired up and enthusiastic to participate in our democracy. And there has never been a president who has done more for young people than President Biden. Now, it’s time for President Biden to bring what he has done directly to us—in every way possible. If that happens, not only will he win again in 2024, but young people will remember him as one of the best presidents of our lifetimes. We are ready.