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Younger Americans angry at Biden over Israel-Gaza crisis and more

Pro-Palestinian protestors march along the streets in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 26, 2023. /CFP
Pro-Palestinian protestors march along the streets in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 26, 2023. /CFP

Pro-Palestinian protestors march along the streets in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 26, 2023. /CFP

Editor's note: Anthony Moretti, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is an associate professor at the Department of Communication and Organizational Leadership at Robert Morris University. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN.

U.S. President Joe Biden entered the Christmas weekend knowing that he was unpopular with a large segment of the American electorate. In fact, more than 55 percent of all Americans view him unfavorably.

The news got worse for the president once all the Christmas cheer came to an end. A New York Times and Siena College poll reported that a majority of the people surveyed do not support how he has handled the ongoing Israel-Gaza crisis. But the most telling figures were those representing people aged 18 to 29.

Seventy-two percent – almost three out of every four respondents – in that age bracket disapprove of Biden's efforts to handle the military and humanitarian disaster unfolding in the Middle East. Only 20 percent said they approve of what he has done. Consistent with those numbers, 27 percent of respondents in that age range say they support Israel, while 46 percent align with the Palestinians.

Young voters are saying one thing about what is happening in Gaza, and Biden is doing just the opposite. Time magazine suggested he might be "the most pro-Israel president in American history." Why? Since the conflict began in early October, "Biden has emotionally expressed his solidarity with Israel and affirmed its need to fight fire with fire. He has expedited military assistance and, most dramatically, he flew to Israel and sat as part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet."

And the president also seemed unmoved when more than 500 U.S. officials signed a letter criticizing his initial response to the war and the subsequent humanitarian toll.

The phrase "tone deaf" echoes loudly.

A school is destroyed by Israeli attacks in Beit Lahia, Gaza, December 26, 2023. /CFP
A school is destroyed by Israeli attacks in Beit Lahia, Gaza, December 26, 2023. /CFP

A school is destroyed by Israeli attacks in Beit Lahia, Gaza, December 26, 2023. /CFP

We need to remember that Biden's support among young adults was already in decline before the daily barrage of images from war-torn Gaza exploded across the Internet and in the mass media. One 23-year-old told NBC News last month that he had turned against Biden because of "failed promises, student loans, foreign policy in general." 

A point of explanation: One of Biden's campaign promises was to forgive loans used to pay for a college education for anyone making less than $125,000. The Supreme Court blocked his original plan; so even though he created a different framework, many college graduates remain saddled with loan payments. It is not clear if all loan debt will be eliminated before the 2024 election.

Biden's often rosy comments about the U.S. economy offer another reason why younger voters look askance at the president. Yes, there have been accomplishments, including the much-discussed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; however, inflation remains a stubborn problem. In response to inflation, which reached a peak of 9 percent about 18 months ago, the Federal Reserve has had to increase interest rates, making it harder for anyone to buy a home. Furthermore, although the stock market has gone up since Biden became president, those gains look feeble when compared to those that took place in the initial years of Donald Trump's and Barack Obama's presidencies.

Let's start with frustration over not getting rid of student loans; add a recognition that purchasing power is not going as far as it had in the past; and then acknowledge the worries about not being able to buy a home. What do you have? A recipe that makes Democrats sick to their stomachs.

The bitter reality for Democrats is that they must win the young adult vote in order to be successful in national races. As one critic recently noted, the minimal losses they suffered in the 2022 midterm election would have been much worse if the youth vote had not turned out in force. But keep in mind that young voters that year were angry after the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that made abortion legal in the U.S. As Republicans celebrated loudly that one of the pillars of their political platform had been realized, younger voters voiced their anger in rallies and at the ballot box.

In other words, and this is also a cause of grief for Biden and his fellow Democrats, those voters did not necessarily show up at the polls to endorse him, even though he had fought to keep abortion legal.

Just before Christmas, Biden had an odd exchange with the media who cover him on a daily basis. When asked his opinion on the U.S. economy, the president said, "All good. Take a look. Start reporting it the right way."

Perhaps the president ought to reflect on those words as he considers what young voters – who if they opt not to vote for him (or vote at all) in 2024 could doom his re-election hopes – are saying about domestic and international affairs. No president should pander to the public; however, actions that anger an important voting bloc and catch phrases that do not resonate will not improve Biden's chances of voters rallying to him next year.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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