AJC Poll: Young voters not happy with their presidential choices

Most said they will make their decision based on who seems least harmful
Black Voters Matter activists applaud at a press conference at the Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Black Voters Matter activists applaud at a press conference at the Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

It might be their first or second time to vote in a presidential election, but novelty is not translating into excitement for young voters in Georgia.

More than a dozen people younger than 30 who were interviewed Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said they’re not enthusiastic about the prospect of either the Democratic candidate, President Joe Biden, or the Republican candidate, former President Donald Trump, as our nation’s next president. Most said they will make their decision based on who seems least harmful, but several remained open to a third-party candidate.

“I don’t like any of them, but there are no better choices,” said Cloud Lewis, a 19-year-old student from Decatur studying at the University of Tennessee. “I just wish I wasn’t being represented by old men.”

That sentiment is reflected in a new AJC poll released Tuesday ahead of Thursday’s presidential debate in Atlanta. Among likely voters in Georgia between the ages of 18-29, just 12% said they would support Biden, while 37% said they would vote for Trump.

The voting bloc was also the least satisfied in the direction of the country, with 86% telling pollsters they believe the nation is heading in the wrong direction. More than half — 57% — said they are financially worse off than a year ago, and 35% said inflation and the cost of living are their top concerns.

The polling of this smaller subset of voters is less precise than the AJC’s broader poll of all voters, but the dissatisfaction and pessimism the results suggest reflects national polling, as well as sentiments from interviews with young Americans.

Lewis said he is worried that he might not ever have enough money to buy a house. “I just want a good job market and for it to not be so insanely expensive. It feels like you have to fend for yourself,” he said.

The Biden administration and Congress have passed several economic policies, such as the CHIPS and Science Act, which is intended to bring microchip manufacturing back to the United States, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which provided money to reduce carbon emissions. Biden has also tried to forgive some student loans, although the program was rejected by the courts.

Nathan Price, an associate professor of political science at the University of North Georgia, said there is a disconnect between the policies enacted under the Biden administration and how the president is perceived by voters.

“The economic frustration they’re feeling is more than just student loans and cost of living. The perception is that it’s difficult to get a very good job, even with a degree,” he said. “There’s this criticism that they’re not going to be able to match the economic opportunities their parents had.”

Only two young voters explicitly mentioned the Israel-Hamas war as a top concern, despite the wave of protests in the spring on college campuses nationwide.

“Due to the protests, we have overestimated how important the war in the Middle East is for the lay voter. It was a big issue on college campuses. And it is a subset of some of Biden’s coalition,” Price said. But he said economic issues are more important to young voters.

Even among those who have decided on Biden as their choice for a presidential candidate, their support is tepid.

“Biden is the best option we’ve got. The other option in the race is much worse than what we have now. I’d rather have Joe,” said Truman Gephardt, 18, of Sandy Springs.

“Biden is the lesser of two evils. I’m not really excited about him, but I want to keep Trump out of office,” said 25-year-old Jovany Loredo, who lives in Grant Park.

“I don’t like either, but I’m going with Biden. Trump isn’t the best for Black people and people of color,” said Reynoldstown resident Sean Taylor, 18, who is Black.

Trump’s advocates were more vocal, citing his economic policies as a selling point.

Ryan Koeper, 21, who is a student at Auburn University, said he has been struggling with a higher cost of living and fuel prices.

“Rents will go back down with lower taxes under Trump,” he said.

Increasingly, those who have voted as Republicans in the past indicated they were open to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who is running as an independent. In the AJC poll, 30% of young voters said they supported Kennedy.

“I don’t heavily lean towards either (Trump or Biden),” said Carly Loggins, 23, who lives in Barrow County. “If I had to, it would be Trump. But I plan on voting for Kennedy.”

Her vote comes from “what I’ve seen on social media and on TikTok, specifically — just hearing the things that he’s talked about and the experience that he has.”

Landon Chavis, 25, who lives in Jeff Davis County in South Georgia, said he feels “obligated to vote for Trump” since he is a registered Republican but is interested in Kennedy Jr.

“He’s like a walking encyclopedia of knowledge,” he said.

Chavis, who was elected last year to the Hazlehurst City Council, said he’s encouraging his friends and peers to become more informed and involved in this election.

“There has been an erosion of trust in the president. People just need to vote. Nothing can be done from the couch. And nothing can be done by being a keyboard warrior on Facebook,” he said.

“You have to go take action, and that’s by voting. So, whether you trust in the system or not, you need to go vote,” he said.


As President Biden and former President Trump arrive in Atlanta, catch up on everything you need to know with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s six-page debate guide, ahead of that night’s event. Then go to ajc.com throughout the evening for the latest news.