Young voters are more concerned with the economy. That’s bad for Biden – Hartford Courant

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Jarrell Dillard | Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — They’re weighed down by student debt. They’re shut out of the housing market. They’re hit by higher costs of living. And they want President Joe Biden to listen.

At a time when Donald Trump is cutting into Biden’s 2020 advantage with young adults, the growing list of grievances among those between the ages of 18 to 29 is a worrying sign for Biden as he seeks a second term.

People in that age cohort are more than twice as likely to cite the economy as their top concern compared with older adults in recent Gallup data. And while all voters are more worried about the economy now than they were heading into the 2020 presidential election, the pessimism has spiked the most among those under 30.

That concern is being reflected in polls. Trump is currently leading the president 47% to 40% with voters aged 18 to 34 in swing states, according to a March Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll. By contrast, Biden won 61% of voters under 30 last cycle.

Though the November election is months off and attitudes can shift, there’s no doubt Biden will need support from Generation Z and Millennial voters to win.

Incumbents get the blame when voters are dissatisfied with the economy. The challenge for Biden is that even though economic growth has been solid in the past year, the job market is robust and the inflation rate is cooling, polls after polls show many people don’t feel like it.

Younger Americans have a long list of headwinds: stunted action on student-loan forgiveness, the highest interest rates since they’ve been in diapers and expensive rents.

Older Americans, who are more likely to live in houses they own with low mortgage rates and who have benefited from years of housing and stock market appreciation, are less pessimistic about the economy. The contrasting way generations emerged financially from the coronavirus pandemic may provide a playbook for Biden on how to hone his political message to young adults.

Christian Martin, a 22-year-old college senior from Atlanta, said he hasn’t yet felt the impact of Biden’s economic policies. He’s worried about making student-loan payments after he graduates while keeping up with the elevated costs of living.

“If Biden can address the issues that the youth are feeling, then the turnout can be stronger than what it’s projected to be,” he said in an interview. “This is Biden’s chance to hear what we have to say, because that’s essentially all it is, you know, unfulfilled promises.”

Biden’s plan to forgive billions of dollars in student debt was struck down last year by the Supreme Court, which rejected one of his signature initiatives as exceeding his power.

“The President is fighting to lower costs for young Americans — forgiving student debt, lowering health and eliminating junk fees,” Seth Schuster, a Biden campaign spokesperson, said by email. “Meanwhile, Donald Trump appointed the Supreme Court Justices who denied student-debt relief and ensured that young people now have less rights than the generations before them.”

In a statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said that “President Trump will create a safe, prosperous, and free nation that helps all young people achieve their American Dream.”

The pandemic upended the economy when young voters were just entering adulthood, endangering their job prospects as businesses locked down and complicating their housing options as rents skyrocketed.

“They had a more severe impact of COVID itself in a direct economic way,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Newhouse director of Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. “Whether it’s gas, or housing, or rent or health care, they’re having a really hard time having affordability for that because of the lack of stored wealth.”

Inflation has eased significantly in the past year, including for necessities such as food, but prices remain considerably higher than they were before the 2020 election. And while wages have grown for all age groups in recent years, young adults have the lowest earnings in addition to having fewer assets.

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