University of Michigan senior Bhavani Iyer, 21, stayed in line to vote until 1 a.m. last November to help reelect Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and vote on a ballot measure to codify the right to abortion in the state.
The 21-year-old considers herself a Democrat, but sitting here on the Diag — an open area on the center of campus where students gather between classes and club meetings — she said she doesn’t know if she will support President Biden’s reelection bid next November. One of her top priorities is protecting access to abortion, but her disapproval of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Gaza war and his decision not to call for a full cease-fire weighs just as heavily on her mind these days.
“In past elections, I voted a straight ticket,” said Iyer, who is now weighing third-party options but is still unsure whom she would support. “But in this one, I feel like it’s probably not going to be that way.”
Sitting on a concrete bench with friends Andrea Gonzalez and Humza Irfan last week as fellow students rushed through the campus hub, all three of the young, typically reliably blue voters expressed their own moral conflict about how to vote — or whether to vote at all — in next year’s presidential contest.
Gonzalez, a 19-year-old whose parents are immigrants, said that she feels a deep sense of responsibility to cast her vote in what will be her first time participating in a presidential election but that she is torn over what she feels is a lack of options. While she feels disdain for former president Donald Trump and his years of controversial rhetoric toward women, immigrants and people of color, Biden’s stance on the war makes it difficult to decide where she leans. And Irfan, 21, who said his enthusiasm for the incumbent president has been diminished by the war, noted the conflict has changed Biden’s standing overall among Muslims, many of whom feel he has shown a lack of sympathy for Palestinian civilians.
The uncertainty shared by the three friends is emblematic of the broader disapproval many young voters across the country have voiced over Biden’s handling of the Israel-Gaza war. Gen Z and millennial voters — defined as those born from 1997 to 2012 and 1981 to 1996, respectively — have typically supported Democratic candidates, and young people were key to flipping swing states such as Michigan blue and securing Biden’s win in 2020. [Continue reading…]