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What did the Iowa caucuses reveal about what younger voters want from candidates?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. What did the Iowa caucuses reveal about what young voters want from candidates and how the contenders can ensure maximum turnout? We've called Jack Lobel, the national press secretary for Voters of Tomorrow, which is a nonprofit, Democratic-Party-aligned group that seeks to mobilize Generation Z voters and engage with politicians on issues that matter to young people. Welcome to the program.

JACK LOBEL: Thanks for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: I just got to ask about last night's results - what do you think about, as a Democrat, when you see the Republican Party leaning into Donald Trump again?

LOBEL: Well, just 9% of GOP caucusgoers last night were under 30 years old, according to network entrance polls. So it's not that Donald Trump's only unpopular with Democratic young voters. Donald Trump's unpopular with Republican young voters as well.

INSKEEP: So you think that there is some room to peel away younger, more conservative voters if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee?

LOBEL: I do. The GOP primary is a race between Donald Trump, who goes against everything young voters stand for, and a handful of other candidates who don't stand a chance. The GOP is campaigning right now on issues extremely unpopular with young voters, especially on our top issue - abortion rights. So the era of low youth voter turnout is over. Young voters' power is skyrocketing, and that's a really bad sign for Republicans come November.

INSKEEP: Now, that's a really interesting point, but it's one that I should note - and I'm sure you know very well - has been made in election after election after election. It's an aging country. The Republican coalition is an aging coalition. Younger voters maybe have not fully made themselves felt yet. But there's something else going on in this particular election cycle with which I'm sure that you are familiar. There have been many stories about younger voters disenchanted with the Biden administration, especially over the war between Israel and Hamas and President Biden's unequivocal support for the Israeli side. You hear many younger voters, at least anecdotally, saying, can't vote for that guy - maybe won't vote at all. Do you see that as possibly a lasting change?

LOBEL: Pollsters haven't really figured out how to accurately measure my generation's views. A lot of these polls are conducted by the phone, and a lot of us don't really pick up the phone. So our voting history is more revealing. It shows that we support President Biden's vision and strongly oppose Donald Trump's. In 2018 and 2020, 2022, and even last year in 2023, my generation turned out to support progress, to support protecting our freedoms, our abortion rights, our climate. And that still sends a more powerful message than anything going into 2024.

INSKEEP: I think you're correct that younger voters voted for Joe Biden last time and may have been helpful to Democrats in 2022 and in some other elections, but let's deal not necessarily with surveys, which can be flawed, but with the anecdotal stories of younger voters saying, can't stand Joe Biden, can't stand what he's doing in Israel, can't vote for him again. Do you think that that's a serious problem that Biden faces in 2024?

LOBEL: We do have our work cut out for us over the next nine months, but we're going to be online and on the ground demonstrating the stakes of this election. We have a GOP field that is ignoring global warming and bragging about overturning Roe. Ron DeSantis, who did win young voters by a slim majority yesterday, is attacking Black and LGBTQ constituents in his state, so these are extremely unpopular stances for young voters. When compared to Joe Biden, these candidates don't really stand a chance, and it just outlines the stakes for this election for us.

INSKEEP: OK. Jack Lobel, national press secretary for Voters of Tomorrow, thanks very much for taking the time - really appreciate it.

LOBEL: Thank you, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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