The Washington Post and George Mason University’s Schar School conducted a study following the 2016 election to understand people’s sentiments about the results. While Trump supporters were happy and Clinton voters were upset, those who did not vote expressed more negative emotions. It was later discovered that many 2012 Obama voters chose not to vote in 2016, potentially impacting the election outcome.
The upcoming 2024 election could face a similar scenario. In 2016, both Trump and Clinton were viewed unfavorably by a large portion of the electorate. While Biden’s approval was more positive than Clinton’s in 2020, his popularity has since diminished. This sets the stage for an election in which many Americans have a distaste for both candidates and may choose not to vote or opt for a third-party candidate.
Early polls indicate that a similar percentage of Americans view Trump and Biden unfavorably as they did in 2016 with Trump and Clinton. Trump has historically performed well among voters seeking a change in Washington. However, Biden’s challenge lies in his declining approval among younger voters. Recent polls show a tight race between Biden and Trump among this age group, which played a significant role in Biden’s victory in 2016.
Interestingly, the youngest voting bloc is consistently more represented among nonvoters than voters. Throughout recent election cycles, young voters backed Democratic candidates, with some supporting third-party candidates in 2016. On the other hand, older voters tended to support Republicans. The question remains: how would those young nonvoters have voted had they participated?
Young nonvoters likely exhibit more disconnection and apathy towards politics. They are more inclined towards third parties and political independence, indicating lower political engagement. This is further supported by a recent CNN poll, where young respondents and independents were more likely to believe that there were no important differences between the parties, influencing their decision not to vote.
In 2022 and 2018, young people demonstrated a stronger preference for Democrats compared to 2016 or 2020, implying that less-frequent young voters lean more towards the right. It also suggests that the popularity of the presidential candidates may have hindered their overall appeal to young voters. These observations explain why Democrats have experienced success in recent elections but should not provide comfort for Biden in the upcoming 2024 election.
The 2024 contest may largely depend on the engagement of younger voters and voters of color, as these groups overlap significantly. Biden and his supporters have actively targeted these demographics due to their potential impact on the election outcome. If these voters choose to stay home as they did in 2020, Biden’s chances of re-election are at risk. Furthermore, future polls expressing regret from nonvoters about the election outcome would offer little solace to Biden.