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Biden is losing (and Trump is gaining) support, especially among young voters, Northeastern-led research finds

The Civic Health and Institutions Project is led by David Lazer, a university distinguished professor of political science and computer sciences at Northeastern.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the presidential debate in 2020.
Young voters are shifting away from President Joe Biden (left) in favor of former President Donald Trump, according to a Northeastern-led project. Photo by Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images

American reaction to the Israel-Hamas war is damaging President Joe Biden’s chances of reelection, according to a new national survey by the Northeastern University-led Civic Health and Institutions Project known as CHIP50.

The project is led by David Lazer, a university distinguished professor of political science and computer sciences at Northeastern.

The survey finds former President Donald Trump holding a significant advantage in the seven swing states that were decided by fewer than three points in 2020 — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump’s net approval is 19% greater than Biden’s in those crucial states, according to the survey by CHIP50 — a groundbreaking effort by researchers at Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers and Rochester. 

Headshot of David Lazer.
David Lazer, university distinguished professor of political science and computer sciences at Northeastern. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

They originally joined together in 2020 to form the COVID States Project, which for four years analyzed newly collected data to issue more than 100 reports that made sense of the evolving and volatile COVID-19 pandemic.  

The latest national survey finds the largest swing among young people ages 18 to 24. Their disapproval of Biden has jumped to 57% — a gain of 17 points since June 2022. 

Over that same span, the researchers find that disapproval of Trump has dropped from 55% to 42% among young people.

Biden’s disapproval rating among young voters shifted after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, Lazer says.

“Young Democrats should be a very favorable group for Biden,” says Lazer, whose group has been surveying and analyzing this election for two years. “In our first survey after Oct. 7, disapproval of Biden among this group goes from 24% to 39% — and stays there. He is roughly at 40% disapproval among young Democrats.”

Another negative trend for Biden — unrelated to the Israel-Hamas war — is a shifting allegiance by young people away from the Democratic Party. In June 2022, Democrats held a 46% to 21% advantage over Republicans among the youngest demographic; today that margin has narrowed to 38% to 32% for Biden’s party.

“That has been steadily happening over the last two years,” Lazer says of the shift among young people favoring Republicans. “We know that younger voters are going to be more volatile than older voters. In general there’s been a lot of negativity about Biden and younger voters may have been more responsive to that.”

These trends may revert over the next six months, Lazer says.

“As the election unfolds I think that it will be surprising if those young Democrats don’t come home in a Biden versus Trump contest,” Lazer says of the disaffected young people. “But they also might not turn out — so turnout may be more of a concern for Biden than defection.”

Overall, the researchers find that Biden’s disapproval rating has increased nationally to 52% while Trump’s has declined to 43%. Those ratings were practically equal as recently as June 2022, says Lazer. 

The election is unusual in that a sitting president is being challenged by a predecessor — something that hasn’t happened since 1892, when Grover Cleveland became the only president to be elected to non-consecutive terms by beating incumbent Benjamin Harrison.

Lazer says the survey is focused on identifying underlying attitudes about two candidates who have been well known since the 1970s. Trump’s ongoing legal problems have not appeared to hurt him, says Lazer, noting that national disapproval of Trump since July has dropped by three points. His approval rating has gained a point in that time.

“We have a very large sample, so we can detect what are actually very small shifts in approval,” Lazer says. “But in a close election, every percentage point matters.”