HomePoliticsDespite polls, Biden aides insist Gaza campus protests won't hurt re-election bid

Despite polls, Biden aides insist Gaza campus protests won’t hurt re-election bid

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Several top White House aides say they are confident that protests on U.S. college campuses against Israel’s offensive in Gaza will not translate into significantly fewer votes for Joe Biden in the November elections, despite the fact that polls show that many Democrats are deeply dissatisfied with the US president’s war policies.

The White House’s optimism on the issue, shared by many in the Biden campaign, runs counter to dire warnings from some Democratic strategists and youth organizers who warn that misjudging the situation could cost Biden dearly in a tight race with the Republican rival. Donald Trump.

Several aides told Reuters they are advising Biden to stay above the fray, rather than engaging directly with the relatively small groups of protesters on college campuses, arguing their numbers are too insignificant to harm the president’s re-election campaign.

Faced with the choice between Biden and Trump in November, many officials remain convinced that even Democrats who oppose US policies will choose Biden. Reuters interviewed nearly a dozen top White House officials in recent days, but only two expressed concerns about the impact of the protests and Biden’s handling of the issue.

The issue will return to the spotlight on Sunday, when Biden delivers the speech at Morehouse College, after some objections from students and faculty, and a warning from the university’s president that the ceremony will stop if there are protests.

Most officials Reuters spoke to said they believe housing costs and inflation are the most important issues for young voters, not the war in Gaza, pointing to a recent Harvard poll that puts Israel/Palestine 15th on a list of issues, after taxes, gun violence and jobs. Several aides refer to the protesters as “activists” instead of students.

See also  Republicans are flocking to Trump's trial to attack the judge, the court and the law

Asked for comment on the issue, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said Biden understands this is a painful moment for many communities and is listening. He has said too many civilians have been killed in the “heartbreaking” conflict and more must be done to prevent the loss of innocent lives, Bates added.

Biden and Trump are nearly tied in national polls, and Trump has the lead in the battleground states that will decide the election, several recent polls show. On economic issues such as inflation, Trump generally scores higher with voters than Biden.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found Democrats deeply divided over Biden’s handling of both the Gaza war and the US campus protests against it, with 44% of registered Democrats disapproving of Biden’s handling of the crisis, and 51% of his handling of the protests. .

Young voters still favor Biden, but support has fallen significantly since 2020, polls show. A Reuters/Ipsos poll in March found that Americans aged 18 to 29 favored Biden over Trump by just 3 percentage points – 29% to 26% – while the rest preferred another candidate or were unsure whether someone would get his vote.

Two White House officials Reuters spoke to stressed that Biden’s support among young voters is not where it was in 2020, and said they worry the administration is not taking the decline seriously enough.

With more than 35,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza since the war began in October, US support for the Israeli government could weigh heavily on November’s presidential election, they said.

See also  Biden tells Israel to protect civilians after Rafah attack

“There’s almost a level of resistance when it comes to some of the president’s closest advisers on this issue,” said a senior White House official with direct knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named. “They think the best approach is to just stay away and let it pass.”


Protests against Israel’s war in Gaza have erupted at more than 60 colleges and universities this year, disrupting Biden’s events across the country, pushing Democrats in key battleground states to vote “unaligned” and dividing the Democratic party.

Biden, who is known for saying what he thinks even when it is politically unfavorable, has been cautious on the issue of protests over Gaza. He spoke in early May about the importance of following the law and defending freedom of speech, and later addressed the threat of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Both times, he largely avoided the issue that sparked the protests: what young Americans think about his support for Israel. But he also said bluntly that protests will not change his Middle East policy.

Groups organizing the protests say a recent cut of certain weapons to Israel was too little, too late, and are planning new demonstrations, although the summer holidays could ease the action on campuses.

Michele Weindling, political director of the climate-focused youth group Sunrise Movement, said: “Young people are incredibly disillusioned, they are angry about the way the president has handled this conflict.”

“A major risk right now is that young voters will remain completely out of the electoral system in November, or will deliberately vote against Biden out of anger,” Weindling said.

See also  Biden will meet with Ukrainian Zelenskyy in Paris as Russia leans into its battlefield offensive

That has the potential to cost Biden dearly, since 61% of the more than half of Americans ages 18 to 29 who voted in the 2020 general election voted Democratic, a Tufts University research group found. Youth turnout had increased by 11 points compared to 2016.


Republicans both overwhelmingly disapprove of the protests and Biden’s handling of the war, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week. Some Republicans have called on him to send National Guard troops to campuses.

But until a day before Biden gave his first speech on the protests on May 2, he remained unsure whether to address the issue, two officials said. Biden asked his team to put together “something rudimentary” so he could edit and change it, which he did that evening, one of the officials said.

He did not make the final decision to speak until the morning, after violence broke out on the UCLA campus, the official added.

The Harvard youth survey showing low Israel/Gaza youth concerns is being distributed at internal campaign meetings and at the White House and is consistent with private data seen by the White House, the first official said.

The president purposely does not speak about every issue in the news, another White House official said. It “doesn’t always happen, no matter what kind of news it is, whether it’s the news of the day, the week or the month,” he said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons and Deepa Babington)

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments