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students on biden not being trump
students on biden not being trump
JOSEPHINE SULLIVAN; Joe Biden via YouTube; Donald Trump via YouTube
Culture > News

Biden’s Big Selling Point Is That He’s Not Trump. To These Gen Zers, That’s Not Enough

Updated Published

Her Campus is on tour! In partnership with Future Caucus and DoSomething, the Her Campus Voices: Election 2024 Tour is coming to college campuses around the country to host conversations with students to get their insights and opinions as we approach the November election. First up is Michigan State University — here are MSU students’ thoughts about choosing between the two frontrunners in the presidential election: President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. 

The 2024 presidential election is starting to feel like a repeat of the election in 2020, with Biden and Trump as the presumed delegates for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. And if you’re feeling less than happy about this bout of deja vu, you’re not alone.

Many Gen Z voters are still reeling from the impacts of Trump’s presidency: He paved the way for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, his administration’s handling of the Covid pandemic made healthcare a more deeply divisive partisan issue than ever before, and his attempts to retain power after the 2020 election led to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Not to mention, Trump is currently facing criminal and civil charges while running for re-election.

But young voters aren’t too impressed with Biden, either. The U.S. economy is struggling, many believe him to be out of touch with Americans on most issues, and most notably, his response to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has disappointed and frustrated many, especially progressive Gen Zers. As he gears up for his reelection campaign, Biden’s main selling point — and arguably one of the leading reasons he won the presidency in 2020 — is simply that he isn’t Trump. But is that enough of a platform for him to secure re-election?

To many young voters, the answer is no.

“Biden can’t continue to run on just the whole, ‘I’m not Trump’ platform, because you have to actually do something,” Madison R., a student at Michigan State University, says in an exclusive conversation on the Her Campus Voices Tour. 

Fellow MSU student Belma H. agrees. “It’s not like you get a trophy for not being Trump,” she says. “A lot of people aren’t Trump. That’s not a thing to capitalize on.”

hc voices tour msu

Even though Trump has been out of office for over three years, Biden’s campaign is still heavily relying on the comparisons between himself and his presidential predecessor. On May 16, he re-posted a video on X of Trump claiming “the stock market will crash” if Biden was president, along with a photo of Biden holding a large letter “L,” presumably handing it to Trump. This meme is just one example of Biden trolling Trump on social media and in advertisements throughout his 2024 campaign.

While it’s par for the course for politicians to draw comparisons between themselves and their adversaries, for many young voters, Biden’s campaign is too much talk, not enough action. When Biden first became president in 2021, he quickly signed over three dozen executive orders, most of which were reversing actions that Trump had taken as president. Biden’s initiatives, like extending the pause on student loan payments and rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, seemed to signal the beginning of a promising presidential term for those who supported his run for president. Unfortunately, many of his campaign promises have since stalled

“He’s losing young people.

One of Biden’s major platforms that could sway Gen Z is reproductive rights. (According to a December 2023 Her Campus survey, 66% of Gen Zers said reproductive rights is one of the top three issues for them in the 2024 election.) However, Biden hasn’t made strides on this issue — in fact, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in his second year as president, abortion laws and bans have become far more intense in multiple states. In March 2024, the Biden administration released a statement pointing out the actions Biden has taken to protect reproductive rights and saying Biden “will continue to take executive action to protect access to reproductive health care,” but many young voters wish he was doing more.

“Reproductive justice is definitely what’s driving my vote,” Alex B. says. “I’ve had some friends that are in school in states where abortion is banned, and talking to them about some of the experiences they have has absolutely made that so real and terrifying.”

Maya* agrees, adding, “I’m still terrified going to states where I know [abortion] is no longer allowed.” 

student at hc voices tour msu

Biden’s support of Israel during the Israel-Hamas war is another leading divisive issue among Gen Zers. Particularly, Biden’s response to the protests that swept college campuses in the spring has disappointed many of his young constituents. While he claimed to be supportive of peaceful protests, many saw his response as vague and dismissive of the issue. “Seeing so many leftist politicians just be really moderate and really supportive of Israel, it just feels very alienating,” Belma H. says.

In the eyes of many young voters, Biden has failed to instill confidence that he can do anything positive for them — except, you know, not be Trump. “He’s losing young people … he’s just not doing anything,” says Madison R. This sentiment seems to be reflected in the opinions of many young voters. According to a poll by The Harvard Gazette, the percentage of college students who plan to vote has fallen to 55%, compared to 68% for the 2020 election.

In the latest polling averages, Biden and Trump are nearly neck-and-neck, which means the race could be decided by those who are currently planning to vote third-party or abstain from voting altogether. Biden still has a few months until the election to try and change voters’ minds, but as of right now, many members of Gen Z have made it clear he hasn’t yet done enough. Only time will tell if he’ll turn things around.

*Name has been changed.

Jordyn Stapleton has been a National Lifestyle Writer for Her Campus since February 2023. She covers a variety of topics in her articles, but is most passionate about writing about mental health and social justice issues. Jordyn graduated from CU Boulder in December 2022 with Bachelor’s degrees in music and psychology with a minor in gender studies and a certificate in public health. Jordyn was involved in Her Campus during college, serving as an Editorial Assistant and later Editor-in-Chief for the CU Boulder chapter. She has also worked as a freelance stringer for the Associated Press. Jordyn is currently taking a gap year and working at a local business in Boulder, with hopes of attending graduate school in fall 2024. Jordyn enjoys reading, bullet journalling, and listening to (preferably Taylor Swift) music in her free time. If she isn’t brainstorming her next article, you can usually find her exploring coffee shops or hiking trails around Boulder with her friends.