President Donald Trump's campaign is inundating young, liberal voters with digital ads — and it’s beating outreach from Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, according to a new poll of registered 18- to 39-year-olds in battleground states.
The poll, administered to Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, found that 47 percent of the youngest voters — Generation Z, or "Gen Z" for short — saw ads from the GOP or the president's campaign on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
However, only 21 percent of them came across digital ads from Biden or the Democratic Party. Forty percent of all young voters surveyed reported seeing no form of Democratic campaign contact.
“This is not a general youth poll. These are voters that Vice President Biden should be chasing,” said Sarah Audelo, the executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing youth turnout and political engagement.
Commissioned by the Alliance and conducted by data analytics company Civiqs, the poll surveyed 1,241 young Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in swing states. It reached registered voters between July 18-20 in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
Historically, political campaigns have not deeply invested in young people, who turn out at lower rates than older generations do, are more likely to identify as independents and have a growing distrust of government and institutions. Data from groups like the Alliance and research organization CIRCLE shows that young people are less likely to be contacted by campaigns or get voting information. The numbers are even lower for young people with no college experience.
With the pandemic eliminating most meaningful in-person contact, Audelo stressed the need for campaigns to be targeting Gen Z and Millennial voters with digital outreach to ensure turnout.
If the election were held today, the poll found that nearly 90 percent of young Democrats would pick Biden. But it’s been well documented that Biden is facing down an enthusiasm gap, especially with young Black voters.
While those surveyed almost unanimously dislike President Donald Trump, 27 percent also rated Biden somewhat or very unfavorably. That number jumps to 31 percent for Black younger millennial and Gen Z Democrats or Democratic-leaners.
With Trump's recent comments about mail voting, the survey shows a large share of these young Democrats intend to vote by mail — though some don't know how. Just 36 percent say they plan to vote in person, while 43 percent plan to vote by mail. Another 9 percent said they want to vote by mail, but they don't know the rules in their state.
Younger white Democrats (30 percent) are less likely to say they will vote in person than Black people (48 percent) or Latinos (40 percent).
Still, with 2020 being such a tumultuous year, youth voting advocates are hoping to tap into young people’s desire for change, unlocked by the country's response to Covid-19 and the wave of protests against police killings and systemic racism.
The voters surveyed named coronavirus and ending systemic racism and discrimination their top priorities. Twenty-nine percent of voters picked "defunding the police" as the most important criminal justice reform — the highest of any other initiative.
“Persuadable young voters are highly motivated to vote up and down the ballot this year,” Audelo said. “But Vice President Biden has a lot of work to do to earn their votes.”