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Young voters helped elect Biden in 2020. His campaign is courting them again in 2024

In this file photo, President Biden poses for a photo with the Students Demand Action group after speaking at the National Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Conn., June 16, 2023. Young voters could be key to Biden's reelection prospects as he campaigns for a second term.
Susan Walsh
/
AP
In this file photo, President Biden poses for a photo with the Students Demand Action group after speaking at the National Safer Communities Summit at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Conn., June 16, 2023. Young voters could be key to Biden's reelection prospects as he campaigns for a second term.

Updated March 11, 2024 at 8:05 AM ET

President Biden's reelection campaign is heading to class, unveiling a new initiative focused on engaging with young Americans as the general election campaign unofficially ramps up.

The campaign is launching Students for Biden-Harris, a program focused on building a large volunteer base of young supporters using different student-run groups nationwide.

It comes as Gen Z and younger millennials, Americans under 30, are poised to potentially play a crucial role in the 2024 presidential race.

"This is the primary way for a student to get involved right now," Eve Levenson, the campaign's Director of Youth Engagement, explained to NPR.

Students for Biden-Harris is the formal start of a youth outreach strategy led by Levenson. She said the launch begins a recruitment blitz for volunteers, and the campaign then plans to help students start chapters or presences at their high schools and colleges and work with these volunteers throughout the cycle.

It's one of several efforts that the campaign is making to engage with young people ahead of the election. These include using "relational organizing," where volunteers will be given campaign materials to send directly to people in their communities—which will be part of both Students for Biden-Harris and other initiatives to reach young people not in college.

The announcement also comes just a month after the Biden campaign launched an affiliated TikTok account—a decision seen as a nod to younger Americans, who use the app at disproportionately higher rates compared to older generations. Despite the campaign's presence on the app, the White House is supporting legislation that would effectively ban it if it stays under its current ownership by the Chinese company ByteDance.

But while Gen Z and younger millennials sided with Biden in 2020, support among this age group isn't guaranteed this time around.

According to the latest Harvard Youth Poll, voters under 30 are showing lower levels of enthusiasm to vote compared to four years ago. Despite high turnout in recent major elections, they remain divided in support for Biden, especially as factions of the voting bloc disapprove of his handling of Israel's war in Gaza and as movements to vote 'Uncommitted' in the Democratic primary pop up across the country.

The campaign says they're hearing and listening to those voices but also stresses that no single issue defines the youth vote.

The Biden campaign has highlighted other issues young voters care about, notably honing in on the importance of protecting abortion access. They're also pointing to the administration's unprecedented spending to address climate change and moves on student loan forgiveness – but the message is not always reaching its intended audience.

Levenson is focused on bridging some of those information gaps.

"Young people have fought for so many things and so much has gotten done," Levenson said. "People don't necessarily know what it is that's gotten done."

The Students for Biden-Harris launch comes the same day Biden received a series of endorsements from over a dozen organizations that work with young voters, including Voters of Tomorrow, NextGen PAC and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

But, just last week, a handful of progressive organizations that focus on young voter issues are demanding more from the president. In a letter released ahead of Biden's State of the Union address last Thursday, they outlined a "Finish the Job Agenda," which included urging Biden to declare a lasting ceasefire in Gaza.

"Going into 2024, you must run on a bold and progressive agenda that invests in our generation and recognizes the need for immediate action to combat the issues of our time," the letter read. "We need you to prove to our generation that you are fighting for us every step of the way."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 10, 2024 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier version of this story misspelled Eve Levenson's name.
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Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.