Young Voters Say Their Discontent Goes Deeper Than Israel and Gaza

The energy on Michigan college campuses ahead of the 2022 midterms, students said, was electric.

Armed with promises to protect abortion rights, Democratic candidates held large campus rallies, drawing crowds who came prepared to cheer, rather than protest. On Election Day, students showed up in droves — resulting in the highest youth turnout of any state, helping Democrats take full control of Michigan’s government for the first time in decades.

But before the Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, the energy seems to have morphed into apathy or anger. Young activists have been at the forefront of sustained backlash to President Biden’s staunch support of Israel and its military campaign in Gaza, which began after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. Protest of U.S. policy culminated in an effort encouraging residents to vote “uncommitted” to send a message to Mr. Biden in the pivotal general election state.

Interviews with more than two dozen students across the state indicated a deeper well of dissatisfaction, not just with the incumbent president, but with the prospect of once again having to choose between two candidates — Mr. Biden and former President Donald J. Trump — decades older than them.

“It’s been a tense atmosphere on campus,” said Adam Lacasse, a co-chairman of the College Democrats at the University of Michigan. “A lot of people, if they’re not upset with what’s going on, with the administration’s handling of that conflict, they’re turned off from politics because they don’t want to get engaged in it.”

National polls have for months reflected a similar sentiment: Voters under 30, who backed Mr. Biden by more than 20 points in 2020, are unenthusiastic about a rematch between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, who is heavily favored in the Republican primary on Tuesday.

But for some young people in Michigan and elsewhere, Mr. Biden’s alignment with Israel has presented a new concern. Voters under 30 overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to the conflict in a December New York Times/Siena College poll, saying that Israel hadn’t done enough to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza and that the military campaign should stop.

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