Though President Biden, given the little opposition he’s facing, will likely secure the Democratic party’s nomination for president in 2024, some young, left-leaning voters don’t want to side with him or the Republican nominee. They’re looking for a third option.
A 2023 Pew survey found that 37% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have a negative view of both the Democratic and Republican parties — far more than older generations and compared with 28% overall. It has been widely reported that they’re more politically engaged than older generations, but according to an ABC News report, they are more likely to cast their ballots in favor of issues rather than candidates.
Though the 2020 election generated record turnout for young people, a 2023 Harvard Kennedy poll found that only 49% of that age group plans to vote in this election at all. According to interviews published this month in Teen Vogue, some members of Gen Z don’t want to vote for Biden because they don’t agree with his policies.
What left-leaning young voters are saying
Other left-leaning young voters still want to participate in the upcoming election but plan to support a third-party candidate over Biden. Yahoo News spoke with several third-party voters under the age of 30 about the reasons they’re fed up with their two-party options and whom they’d like to see on the ballot instead.
Uduak Nkanga, a 25-year-old political policy specialist in Washington, D.C., is a registered Democrat. She told Yahoo News that she thinks Biden has failed to properly address immigration and to listen to what the Black community needs.
“I think the current administration spends more time speaking about how bad the previous administration is rather than implementing any real strategic policies,” she said. She added that Democratic party officials aren’t listening to public opinions about Biden, noting that a 2023 Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that nearly 70% of Democrats between the ages of 18 to 29 wanted another candidate to challenge Biden in the presidential primary.
“People are starting to see that both of the major political parties are from the same tree with different branches,” Nkanga said. “It’s OK to stick with your values when you vote.”
She’s not sure exactly who she’ll vote for in the presidential election — she might leave the spot blank altogether and focus on local officials and ballot initiatives instead.
“If you don't like what's on the ballot, put yourself on the ballot,” Nkanga said. “Remember that the president may be on the top of the ticket, but it doesn’t stop there.”
The argument against 3rd-party voting
Though there’s little chance that a third-party candidate could win the presidency, Democrats have expressed concern that they could siphon votes away from the party, giving Republicans an advantage. Third-party spoilers have historically been a concern, but have rarely interfered in election results.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll from January 2024 found that Trump held a six-point lead both in a head-to-head matchup and when third-party candidates were included. According to that data, anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent after dropping out of the Democratic primary race in October, led the third-party pack with 8% of the vote. Since it’s not likely a third-party candidate could win the presidency — it has never happened in the U.S. — some say that third-party votes are “throwaways” or “wasted.”
Sam, a 28-year-old TikToker who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her privacy, rejected that idea and plans to vote for a candidate she agrees with ideologically. Though her beliefs are left-leaning, she identifies as a communist and said it would be “incredibly presumptuous” for Democrats to assume her vote belongs to them.
“If Democrats want to earn independent votes, they have to appeal to them through their platform, instead of tripping over each other to appeal to right-wingers in a race to the bottom that has left this country’s political spectrum exceedingly one-sided,” Sam said.
She hasn’t decided who she’s voting for yet, but she would love to see a debate involving Jill Stein, Cornel West and Claudia De La Cruz. For local elections, she works with her local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America to canvas for socialist candidates.
Issues that young voters care about
Michael Corona, a 28-year-old bartender and video editor, told Yahoo News that he’s deeply concerned about Biden’s age. He said the president is 16 years older than the standard retirement age of 65 and out of touch with how most Americans live.
“He doesn’t know what it’s like having to work multiple jobs just to scrape by,” Corona said. “The average median house price in 1960, when Biden would’ve been 18, was $11,900. You can barely get a car for that price in today’s market.”
“I think that the system is so far out of repair, we need something to drastically change to improve this country,” he said. “I love everything [socialist candidate] Claudia De La Cruz stands for, and I know she will fight for the people and what’s right.”
Like many of the young people who have taken to TikTok to share their dissatisfaction with Biden, Corona condemned Biden’s support of Israel and lack of support for Palestinians. According to a New York Times/Siena College poll, almost three-quarters of 18-to-29-year-old respondents disapprove of Biden’s position on the war in Gaza. Sam said that this is her main issue with the current president.
Sam wants to also support a candidate with concrete plans for universal health care and education, as well as plans to rein in corporate entities to control the housing market. Also top of mind for her is the ever-increasing impact of COVID, which still kills hundreds of Americans every week as others develop lifelong disabilities. She said members of the current administration appear as if “they simply do not care” about COVID.
Casey Antonison, a 26-year-old who creates content about trans and disability activism, told Yahoo News that, according to a CNN exit poll, many of the people who voted for Biden in 2020 cited the presidential response to COVID and racial equality as top concerns. Four years later, they’ve assessed Biden’s actions, and many of them are not pleased.
Antonison, who uses the pronouns she and they interchangeably, said they identify as a progressive but voted for a third-party candidate in 2020.
“I would argue that the Democrats can't move forward without acknowledging that they have not been living up to our expectations for them and promising to do better,” Antonison said. “Replacing Biden is the first step in this.”
They added that politicians are missing out on an opportunity to relate to young people by focusing on being “online and trendy” rather than addressing concerns about the job market, a lack of affordable housing and climate change. She said Democrats have recently been giving more attention to abortion and LGBTQ rights than many of the other issues that impact their constituents’ daily lives.
Antonison is still figuring out which third-party candidate to support, but they are considering leaving the presidential vote blank and focusing on ballot measures and local races.