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Democratic pollsters sounds the alarm as young voters' support of Biden plummets

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As the political calendar inches towards midterm elections coming right up in November, President Biden's approval ratings are down overall. Democratic pollsters are really sounding the alarm about his approval ratings among young voters. A recent Gallup poll noted support for the president had plummeted 21 points among Gen Z - that is people born after 1997 - and the slump in approval extends through millennials and into Gen X. So what gives?

Well, to make sense of this, we are joined by Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez. She's president and executive director of NextGen America. That's one of the biggest youth vote-mobilizing organizations in the country. I asked her, what's driving this?

CRISTINA TZINTZUN RAMIREZ: What we're seeing from the polling and talking to millions of young people across the country is that young people are very clear that they are inheriting a climate crisis, a democracy in decline and deep and grotesque income inequality. And, you know, a lot of people don't realize, but young Americans, young adult Americans are the first generation in American history to be worse off than their parents.

KELLY: Do you see differences among the generations? Like, Gen Z turn-offs, are they the same as millennials or as Gen X? I don't know. I'm Gen X. I don't know if we count as young anymore - but at the upper end of what you're watching.

TZINTZUN RAMIREZ: I'm a millennial, and, you know, when you combine millennials and Gen Z, they are the largest voting bloc in American history - 65 million young people that are eligible to vote in that younger demographic. And they are consistently progressive, but a lot of them see themselves as independents. They care mostly about issues. And while a lot of young people went and voted to defeat Trump, a lot of them also wanted to see real structural change on the economy.

And there is one thing that is really critical in the back pocket of the Biden administration that would greatly help Democrats, which is canceling student debt. And it's something that the Biden administration really needs to consider to improve the lives and show that they understand the economic pain of the new generation that feels like they don't know when they can have kids; they don't know when they can buy a house. They don't have a lot of security in their economic future.

KELLY: Which is so interesting because, you know, the Biden administration would argue that a lot of things are going right with the economy, that it is better than it was two years ago. Unemployment is way down, for example.

TZINTZUN RAMIREZ: Ordinary Americans don't judge how the economy is doing just by the GDP or how well big corporations are doing; they judge it by how well they're able to make ends meet, how it impacts their pocketbook, how much housing costs, how much they're earning. Truth be told, Biden doesn't control everything that happens in the economy by any means. No president does. But when we talk about the issues that especially young people care about, you see they want big structural change on the economy. They want a minimum of a $15 minimum wage in this country. They want to hold big corporations accountable. They are suspicious of how much inequality has grown in this country.

KELLY: Well, so is the Democratic Party (laugher) going to put the time and energy into this? I mean, in your view, does the White House have a plan to turn things around before the November elections?

TZINTZUN RAMIREZ: You know, I am starting to see people have the right conversations. But for me, it's not just about the conversation about the youth vote, it's about, ultimately, budget priorities and how they spend money speaking and reaching to millions of young people. You know, we have 25,000 volunteers across the country that helped us text, call, organize on dating apps and Twitch and all kinds of ways digitally that I'm - since I'm a grandma millennial, is too old even for me...

KELLY: (Laughter).

TZINTZUN RAMIREZ: ...To fully understand. But we were able to reach millions of young voters that way, and it's really critical that all of those strategies be employed for '22.

KELLY: Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, grandma millennial and president and executive director of NextGen America, thanks for talking with us.

TZINTZUN RAMIREZ: Thanks. I'll start using that in my title. Take care (laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.