Alaska drilling, potential TikTok ban: Biden tests young voters

Young voters are largely supportive of Biden — but recent moves could test their loyalty.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s recent moves to pressure TikTok into Chinese ownership and approval of oil drilling in an untapped area in Alaska are testing voters’ loyalty young trio, a group that largely supported him.

Youth turnout has surged in three elections since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, helping Biden win swing states in 2020, clinching a Senate seat of the United States. Democrats in the 2022 election and avert possible losses in the House.

But the 80-year-old president has never been a favorite among young liberals hungry for a new generation of American leadership. As Biden gears up for a tentative re-election campaign, a potential TikTok ban and oil drilling in Alaska could weigh on him.

Meanwhile, his plan to clear billions of dollars of student loan debt is in jeopardy in the Supreme Court. The effort, announced shortly before last year’s midterm elections, is Biden’s attempt to keep his promise after defeating Radical Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary campaign in November. 2020.

The risk to Biden is less that young voters on the left will vote Republican and more that they will not run into an unattractive election at all.

“I’m a Democrat, but I don’t vote for Biden,” said Mark Buehlmann, a 20-year-old student at Arizona State University. He will likely abstain if Biden is the Democratic nominee as expected. “He can do a good job, but he is not capable of rallying the army, rallying the people. Especially the Democratic voter base. I don’t think he’s a good candidate.”

TikTok allows users, 150 million of them in the United States, to post short, creative videos to friends and strangers alike. Its algorithm has an uncanny ability to figure out what interests users and deliver videos that they will enjoy. It has become a hugely popular — some say addictive — place for young people to find entertainment and community.

Western governments are increasingly worried that TikTok’s owner, Beijing-based ByteDance, might provide browsing history or other data about users to the Chinese government or promote propaganda and wrong information. The US and other countries have banned TikTok from government-owned devices, as have several states.

The US Foreign Investment Commission, part of Biden’s Treasury Department, has threatened to ban TikTok if ByteDance doesn’t sell its stake in the app, the Wall Street Journal reported this month.

Trump tried to ban TikTok in 2020, but the move was blocked in court and later rescinded when Biden took office and ordered an in-depth study of the issue.

ByteDance says it is working to address security concerns and plans to route traffic through servers owned by Oracle, a Silicon Valley-based technology company. .

Biden administration officials emphasized that political concerns do not affect the ongoing national security review, but they are not blind to it either.

Both political parties have reoriented around taking tougher economic and security positions in the face of China’s rise, and Biden has come under increasing pressure from GOP lawmakers to take action against TikTok.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo eloquently put it: “The politician in me thinks you’re going to lose literally every voter under 35 forever.”

But it’s clear that Biden’s White House and his likely re-election campaign are acutely aware of the app’s wide domestic reach and demographic skew towards younger voters. about the Democratic Party.

Highlighting Biden’s balancing act, Representative Jamaal Bowman, a progressive New York Democrat, popular on the left, held a press conference last week with TikTok creators, who have built popular and profitable channels on social media “in support of freedom of expression”.

Lawmakers questioned TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew for nearly six hours on Thursday about data security and harmful content. They reacted skeptically during the intense House committee hearing to his assurance that the app prioritizes user safety and should not be banned due to its connection to China.

“Let me state this clearly: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew said.

In interviews at Arizona State, one of the largest college campuses in the United States and a contributor to Biden’s narrow 10,000 votes in the swing state, young people described the ban TikTok is somewhere between the uncomfortable and the inevitable – but not something that’s going to happen. change their view of the president.

“Most people don’t really think about those things,” Lucas Vittor, a 19-year-old business administration student from Houston, said of the TikTok ban. “I think maybe they’ll see it as, ‘He’s an oppressive leader, an old man, he doesn’t know about social media.'”

If TikTok disappears, another app will emerge to capture the attention of young people, Vittor predicts. Other social media platforms, including YouTube and Instagram, have incorporated similar algorithm-based video features, although some consider them troublesome compared to TikTok.

“It’s not really Biden’s problem,” said Ginny Xu, a 20-year-old chemical engineering student from Goodyear, Arizona. “It’s more of a bipartisan issue – ‘safety’ from China.”

Losing access to TikTok would be disappointing, Xu said, but it won’t stop her from voting for Biden if there isn’t a better Democratic option.

Her friend, 20-year-old chemical engineering student Maddie Bruce, agrees.

“I’m not a huge Joe Biden fan,” Bruce said. She would like to see another Democrat running, but she will still vote for Biden, she said.

Forcing TikTok’s Chinese parent company to sell its stake in the US company could provide a convenient middle ground: mitigating national security threats while avoiding having access to the app cut off. used by tens of millions of users.

Young people have never voted in the same proportion as their parents and grandparents, but their participation has increased markedly since the start of Trump’s presidency.

According to the Center for Information & Research on Citizen Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, which researches young voters, the 2018 and 2020 midterm elections yielded a youth turnout rate. highest vote in three decades.

And when they voted, young people overwhelmingly voted for the Democratic Party.

Biden won 63% of voters aged 18 to 24, compared with 34% for Trump, according to AP VoteCast, an extensive survey of voters. Republican House of Representatives candidates did better with young voters in last year’s midterm elections, but Democrats still have a 14 percentage point advantage, winning turnout from voters 24 years or younger from 54% to 40%.

“If Democrats are looking for their secret weapon, it’s voters,” said Jack Lobel, a spokesman for Voters of Tomorrow, an organization of young voters online and in person. young. “Especially for the Democrats, who have essentially had young voters on their side, we are the untapped potential the campaigns are looking for.”

Lobel said: “The TikTok ban may upset many young voters, but Biden can point to a strong track record in advocating for youth rights.

Biden has tried to reduce student loan debt and advocate for abortion rights. He signed a massive climate spending bill alongside the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades.

Marisol Ortega, a 21-year-old journalism student from Glendale, Arizona, said many of her colleagues are looking for someone younger and more interesting, even if they will likely close their noses and vote for him. .

“Joe Biden has been a name in American politics for a very long time,” Ortega said. I think people are ready for something new.”

However, the Biden administration upset environmentalists and young people by approving the massive Willow oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope.

Young activists have been particularly active in promoting a sharp reduction in oil drilling and a shift away from dependence on fossil fuels. Ahead of the president’s decision, a #StopWillow campaign that garnered millions of views on TikTok urged Biden to block the project.

“He’s given so much to young people and that’s why our advice to the administration is,” said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president of NextGen America, a youth organization group. : ‘This is not the right way to deal with this’.

White House AP correspondent Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report. Alaska drilling, potential TikTok ban: Biden tests young voters

Edmuns DeMars

Edmund DeMarche is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Edmund DeMarche joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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