Biden’s stance on Israel continues to frustrate Generation Z voters

Biden’s stance on Israel continues to frustrate Generation Z voters

The president can no longer count on Generation Z to vote blue. He’ll have to earn it.


If you ask anyone who follows politics, they will probably say that the rise of Generation Z worries them. At least that’s what the headlines and polls tell us.

A February Axios poll found that 58% of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 are unsure whether they will vote in November. A March Harvard youth survey found that only 53% of 18- to 29-year-olds definitely plan to vote this fall, down from the 68% turnout rate in 2020 for that age group.

This means that about half of 18-29 year olds are unsure about voting or do not plan to vote in November. While polls don’t always translate to real life, these numbers should include Democrats who relied on younger voters in 2020 and beyond.

With the help of Twitter and Instagram, I heard from three Gen Z members who don’t plan to vote in this presidential election. All three are from North Carolina, where a governor’s race and other local elections are also taking place this fall.

Here’s what they had to say about why they’re on the fence this year. I was surprised at how much everyone had thought about this decision. After talking to them, I think it’s completely reasonable for President Joe Biden to fear losing the presidency in November because to win he needs Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012.

The Gen Z voter who stands on principles

Michael Murphy, 27, is a bartender and member of the Triangle chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. He says he voted for Biden in 2020 out of pragmatism, but the country’s aid to Israel has changed his tune.

“Seeing the complicity and active involvement in the bombing of Palestinians and our brothers and sisters abroad – it’s horrifying,” Murphy said. “I think it’s really disgusting.”

He plans to vote in a race to the bottom, but not for elected officials who take money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, including Rep. Valerie Foushee, who represents his district in the U.S. Congress.

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He would change his vote if there were policy changes to stop sending weapons to Israel, but fears it is too late for that. Since our conversation, the president has said he will interrupt an arms supply to Israel if it invades Rafah, where more than a million Palestinian civilians are sheltering in southern Gaza. Murphy says it’s a “little bit of hope,” but he’s still unwilling to support the president.

“We understand that there is a lot at stake, but politics is about principles and materiality,” says Murphy.

The Gen Z voter who will not automatically vote blue this year

Teresa Purello, a 23-year-old graduate student, never used the phrase “vote blue no matter who,” but it’s how they felt in 2020. They texted friends to make sure they knew which district they were assigned. It was the first time they could vote in presidential elections.

This year they are considering not voting for president. They voted “no preference” in North Carolina’s Democratic primary on Super Tuesday and still plan to vote in local races this fall.

“There was hope when I voted for Biden in 2020,” says Purello. “But if you vote for him now, you won’t have that at all. There is no appeal.”

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For Purello, the deaths in Gaza and the loss of access to abortion under Biden’s watch, despite his promise to protect abortion rights, are reasons why they do not plan to vote for him. Instead, they are considering third-party candidates because they also have problems with the two-party system in general.

“Everyone always says voting is a way to make your voice heard, and that’s true,” Purello says of Generation Z voters. “But thousands of young people are actively choosing to participate in elections – that’s also a statement.”

The Gen Z voter is on Biden’s fence

Ellen Perleberg, a 25-year-old student, is unsure about voting this fall. She says she hated Biden in 2020, and hates him even more now.

“I am not convinced that Trump’s response to Gaza would be worse than Biden’s,” Perleberg says. “If you want to sell me on getting me to vote, and getting my generation to vote, show me meaningful ways it would be different and not just be rhetoric.”

Despite her dislike of the president, Perleberg votes in local elections. She notes that they matter more in North Carolina than in Washington, her home state.

So what does Gen Z actually care about this election?

These three voters are likely outliers, even among other members of Generation Z. The Harvard youth survey found that the biggest concerns for the 18 to 29 age group are economic issues, not the war between Israel and Hamas.

This isn’t to say that Generation Z doesn’t care about the conflict – 21% of respondents say they believe the United States should be more of an ally to the Palestinians, and 51% support a permanent ceasefire. It’s just not the biggest concern.

The progressives who don’t vote for Biden are making the same decision that Republican moderates who refuse to vote for former President Donald Trump will make in November. They see this as the best option in a system where neither candidate is someone they would like to support. Therefore, Democrats shouldn’t necessarily rely on the party’s youngest voters this election cycle, just as Trump shouldn’t expect every Republican to vote for him.

It doesn’t mean they are uneducated or apathetic; In fact, none of the people I’ve spoken to are sitting out this election at all. They’re just not sure Biden earned their vote.

Every person I spoke to also shared that their friends had similar views on not voting in the presidential election or choosing a third party.

It’s possible that the momentum voters felt in 2020 has dissipated. According to data from the Brookings Institution, turnout among those aged 18-29 increased by 8 percentage points between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. It’s possible that the pandemic year was a fluke and that turnout will be very different this year.

While these are just anecdotes, they show that Democrats should be genuinely concerned about how their actions now will affect Biden’s election prospects in November.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Sara Pequeño on X, formerly Twitter, @sara__pequeno and Facebook