Biden’s numbers among young voters have slid during his presidency from the high margins that helped him beat Trump. Several former supporters explain why.

Biden’s numbers among young voters have slid during his presidency from the high margins that helped him beat Trump. Several former supporters explain why.

Jayden Camarena, in Northern California, is contemplating blowing off the 2024 presidential election. Evan McKenzie, in battleground Wisconsin, is looking for any other candidate than the current front-runners. In Philadelphia, Pru Carmichael isn’t even convinced this race matters.

These young voters live in different cities, work different jobs and have varying political beliefs. But among the things they have in common: They voted for Joe Biden in 2020 — and now say the president can’t count on their support in 2024.

“I genuinely could not live with myself if I voted for someone who’s made the decisions that Biden has,” said McKenzie, a 23-year-old working at Starbucks and as a union organizer in Madison, Wisconsin. “I didn’t even feel great about” voting for Biden back in 2020, he said.

The feeling helps illustrate why Biden’s ratings and support among young voters have dipped noticeably in recent polling. In November, NBC News’ latest national poll showed Biden locked in close competition with former President Donald Trump at the moment for voters ages 18-34, a sharp drop from the margins Biden enjoyed over Trump in the 2020 election, according to exit polling.

“We’ve been seeing this in our data and focus groups actually since May,” said Ashley Aylward, a senior researcher at the Democratic polling firm HIT Strategies. “And to me, it’s because the 2024 campaign season for Democrats hasn’t started yet.”

Polling a year out from an election is a snapshot in time, and Biden and his party have time to bring young voters back into the fold. But Aylward and others said it will take work.

“This is the alarm bell that we needed to make sure that not only the Biden campaign, but every other Democratic operative out there and all the campaigns down the ballot — state and local — actually invest in young people, because we know how much they can change the outcome,” Aylward said.

NBC News spoke with voters who responded to the poll, as well as other voters 18-34 who supported Biden in 2020, but who now say he hasn’t earned their vote for next year, to get a clearer picture of why they are unhappy with Biden and what they want to see him do to earn their support back.

“It’s so complicated, because it almost feels like if I were to give my vote for Biden, I will be showing the Democratic Party that what they are putting out is enough, which is the bare minimum in my opinion,” said Camarena, a 24-year-old living outside the Bay Area.

Voters cited a number of policy areas that disappointed them, including insufficient moves to address climate change and Biden’s inability to fully cancel student loan debt or codify Roe v. Wade, as the president deals with a closely divided Congress. However, Biden’s response to the Israel-Hamas war may be having the greatest effect on his relationship with this voter bloc.

The NBC News national poll, conducted more than a month after the start of the Israel-Hamas war, shows 70% of voters under 35 disapproving of Biden’s handling of the war.

McKenzie cast his first presidential ballot three years ago for Biden, when the Democratic candidate carried Wisconsin narrowly, in part thanks to young voters like McKenzie. He said he urged his friends to vote for Biden then, telling them, “You’ve got to do this.”

He now says he won’t be having those conversations this election cycle. He’s angry at the president for his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, and the threat of losing the White House to the Republican Party has done little to win over his vote.

“I want to show the Democratic Party as a young person that you still need to earn our vote and if you don’t, the consequences will be your career,” McKenzie said. “A Republican getting elected isn’t the end. It is the beginning of a much larger fight.”

In 2020, Biden carried young voters by more than 20 points against Trump, but some of that support appears to have been tepid — and tied to enormous campaign promises from Biden that he has not been able to deliver as president of a closely divided nation.

“I mean, he made a lot of really big promises in his campaign and virtually none of them were followed through on,” said Austin Kapp, a 25-year-old living in Castle Rock, Colorado. “I mean, he could have codified Roe v. Wade, he could have stood up for the rights of people all over the country, he could have done a lot of things, but he didn’t.”

While Biden and Democrats pushed to codify the protections of Roe at the federal level, congressional realities made legislative efforts impossible. A vote to codify Roe in May 2022 failed in the Senate, with Biden lashing out at Republicans afterward and urging voters to “elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House.” Democrats kept the Senate but lost the House in November 2022.

Biden also backed a rules change to the Senate filibuster, which would have allowed legislation to pass by simple majority instead of a higher, 60-vote threshold, but the change was blocked in a bipartisan vote.

Biden wasn’t Kapp’s first choice as a candidate in the last election, and this year he plans to vote third party if the contest is a Biden-Trump rematch. He graduated from school just last spring carrying both private and federal student loans.

When asked how he felt about his loan repayments beginning soon, Kapp groaned: “Oh, yeah, that was another thing.”

“It’s kind of sad to see that the quote unquote lesser of two evils that we were all promised, is this,” Kapp said of Biden.