What the Democratic Party Is Missing About Young Voters

Recent Democratic accomplishments are popular with young voters, with one of the major wins being student loan debt forgiveness. Two-thirds of surveyed voters support the Biden administration’s forgiveness plan, and 40% of voters say student debt forgiveness has made them more supportive overall of Biden and the Democratic Party.

Among respondents, the most popular proposals are new measures in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that cap Medicare copays on insulin, extend health insurance premium subsidies, and allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, with 80% of surveyed voters saying they totally support these actions. 

The IRA’s climate provisions are popular too, with 63% of respondents supporting the legislation’s measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, aimed at investing over a trillion dollars in roads, bridges, and electric grids, earns 75% approval from young voters. 

Sixty-nine percent of respondent voters support measures in the Inflation Reduction Act that close loopholes for corporations, forcing them to pay a minimum corporate tax rate of 15%, while 60% support the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a law aimed at reducing gun violence and keeping schools safe. 

Approval of Biden’s accomplishments is nearly the same among young Biden voters who disapprove of the president as those who approve of him.

But many young voters don’t know what Democrats have accomplished 

Although Democrats have enjoyed recent legislative victories, there seems to be a gap between these achievements and what the party has been able to communicate to young voters. Many respondents haven’t heard of the legislation Democrats have passed. Some don’t know who the candidates are in their statewide midterm elections and what they stand for. “We might see greater improvement in key measures if lawmakers and campaigns directly communicated these policies to young voters,” the Change Research team tells Teen Vogue. “Unfortunately, few [young voters] have heard about these accomplishments.”

Fewer than 30% of surveyed voters have heard of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the first significant federal gun reform legislation in nearly three decades. Barely half have heard about the Inflation Reduction Act, which is best known for its provisions to reduce US carbon emissions, and only 23% have heard a lot about the IRA. Just weeks before the election, almost half of the respondents say they’ve seen, read, or heard “only a little” or “nothing at all” about the candidates for Congress in their area. 

There are two significant outliers to this awareness gap: Most young voters have heard about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade (97%) and the Biden administration forgiving $10,000 in federal student loan debt (89%). Student debt relief has made 40% of respondents either much or somewhat more supportive of Biden and the Democrats, and 4 in 10 voters deem it a “significant step forward,” compared with 32% who call it “too little, too late.”

Abortion remains a central issue in the midterms — for women

In our first Vibe Check, abortion was one of the most important issues for young voters, and that’s still the case. Seventy-four percent of respondents cite the rollback in abortion rights as one of the reasons they think the country is on the wrong track. The end of Roe v. Wade has made 64% of young voters more motivated to cast a ballot, and 6 in 10 surveyed voters say they want to support a candidate in November that supports abortion rights. 

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