NextGen America’s Latest Research Illuminates Path for Joe Biden to Capture the Youth Vote

Survey data shows that this isn’t 2016 all over again and that messaging on key issues and comparisons with Trump can consolidate young voters regardless of partisanship this November 

SAN FRANCISCO Messages clearly contrasting Joe Biden’s policy positions with those of Donald Trump can move young people, including non-Democrats, to cast ballots for Biden, new research published today by NextGen America shows. The nationwide online survey of 3,000 18-34 year-olds conducted from May 21 to June 3 tested persuasion and mobilization approaches for an audience that is largely still on the fence. 

State of the Race

Among young people, Biden starts with a 51% to 29% lead (+22pts) on Trump in a four-way poll that includes third parties and undecided voters. He is up 55% to 32% in a head-to-head poll.

Biden’s favorability trails Barack and Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders but bests Hillary Clinton’s rating from last cycle.

Notably, young people view the Black Lives Matter movement with very high regard. Favorability for BLM skyrocketed in the final week of polling from May 29 to June 3 that partially overlapped with protests across the country calling for police accountability after the murder of George Floyd.

Movable Audiences

This quantitative research found three movable target groups who can build on Biden’s current lead: 

  1. HOLD: “Weak Biden” supporters who can be converted to strong supporters. These voters are likely to be 18-24-year-old liberal Democrats or heavily urban/suburban women, who say they need to learn more about Joe Biden. 
  2. PERSUADE: “Weak Trump” voters who can be persuaded off voting for Trump and toward voting for Biden after hearing messages. These are overwhelmingly suburban and urban white men age 18-24 who say they need to learn more about Biden. 
  3. MOTIVATE: “Potential Biden” voters who start the survey saying they won’t vote/will vote third party, but who move to support Biden. These are often independent voters who don’t like Biden, Trump, or either of the major parties. But these voters have favorable opinions of both Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama, who can be powerful messengers for Biden. 

Survey data shows that learning more about Biden not only brings in skeptics on the left and center (+9 gain in Biden’s lead among Democrats and independents) but also flips many Republican-leaning voters from Trump to Biden (+17).

This Ain’t 2016

Despite his obstacles, Biden is in a better position with young voters than Clinton was in 2016, with reported third party support at 7% compared to 22% four years ago. In addition to his advantage in the initial horserace and movement after messaging, Biden has a significantly different standing with young voters than Clinton did at the same time last cycle. 

How To Move Audiences 

After message testing, favorability views for Biden improved from 49% to 63%. A plurality of potential voters entered the survey already believing that Biden would do a better job than Trump across a host of issues. Moving more young voters into the Biden camp requires further messaging that points to Biden’s comparatively favorable positions on health care, college debt, climate, the economy, racial justice, and more. Contrasting the competence and values of a Biden-staffed administration versus Trump’s administration is also a powerful argument. 

“We know that young people want Trump gone,” NextGen America Executive Director Ben Wessel said. “But being anti-Trump is not enough. We need to show that Biden can get us much closer to having the country that we want and need.”

Further Info

The survey was conducted by Global Strategy Group and follows NextGen America’s April qualitative analysis on voters likely to prefer Sanders to Biden. For a complete look at this research project on young voters conducted by NextGen America and Global Strategy Group, visit


NextGen America is a multiracial coalition of young people, organized to take power by winning elections for progressive candidates. NextGen is uniquely suited to help millennials and Gen Z’ers seize power as an experienced yet nimble political organization that leads with authenticity and grit. Since 2013, NextGen America has registered over 1.3 million voters and contacted millions of young people with messages encouraging them to vote.