Donald Trump is energizing some young Philadelphia voters

Gianni Matteo was born and raised in a Democratic family in South Philadelphia, but the 20-year-old is a huge Trump fan.

“The working class doesn’t really care what foreign enemy we should be fighting in countries that most Americans can’t even name,” Matteo said Tuesday outside former President Donald Trump’s newly opened Holmesburg office. “They care about why I have to work two jobs this summer and why I don’t have money in my pocket to take a girl out on dates.”

As the presidential campaign heads into November, several polls have shown the gap in young voters’ support for Biden and Trump is narrowing. In 2020, President Joe Biden won 60% of voters aged 18-29. Some national surveys now show a nearly even split between Trump and Biden in this age group. This would be a historic shift that analysts who closely study youth voting are warning against may be the result of polling errors.

The bottom line is that Trump is a rebel. Trump is almost punk in some ways. He is a rebel against the establishment – an establishment that doesn’t care about us.

Gianni Matteo

However, because both campaigns aim to attract young voters, young Trump supporters like Matteo a rising college student who is working at a wedding venue this summer, citing concerns about their economic future, particularly the housing market. Some see the former president’s brash, often inflammatory personality as an advantage.

“The bottom line is that Trump is a rebel,” Matteo said. “Trump is almost punk in a way. “He is a rebel against the establishment – ​​an establishment that doesn’t care about us.”

As Biden lost some support among progressive young voters frustrated with his policies on the Gaza war, Trump gained some support, particularly among men who do not have a college degree. His appeal is observable even in some areas of deeply Democratic Philadelphia, where being a young Trump supporter has historically been lonely.

“I think there’s a political shift happening among young people,” said Joe Picozzi, 29, A Republican is running for state senator in the Northeast. “I’ve talked to people who say, ‘I’ve never really been interested in politics, and now I’m getting into it.’ I don’t know anyone who thought, “This works.” Everything is going great.”

In the last happy hour for the Young Republicans of Philadelphia, about a dozen people had college degrees young professionals gathered in a beer garden near Rittenhouse Square. Most work as lawyers, bankers or in other jobs that allow them to live in or near the city center. However, the main topic was still the economy and how difficult it is to buy homes even for relatively successful people.

“There’s kind of a lost generation here,” said Matt Lamorgese, 31. “President Biden promised us all kinds of things when he ran for election and what did we get? People struggle to buy homes, take out mortgages for the amount they need, don’t start families, don’t save for retirement, and when they compare themselves to their parents, they fall behind.

Lamorgese, who chairs the group, said it’s difficult to grow its ranks in a city where most young people are Democrats. However, momentum picked up before November. Still, at a series of GOP events last month, including the opening of Trump’s campaign office, there were mostly familiar faces — and few of them were young.

Both campaigns are trying to reach young voters in Pennsylvania. About 50% of eligible people aged 18-29 in the country voters cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election, which is a lower turnout compared to older voters, but an 11-point increase compared to 2016.

Trump made a splash at one-off events — appearing at a sneaker convention in Philadelphia and Ultimate Fighting Championship game. He too recently joined TikTok. Biden has launched a number of resources to reach young voters and has sought to emphasize work on student loan debt forgiveness and junk taxes.

Sipping IPAs at happy hour, the group cited inflation, immigration, Biden’s age and “Democrat flinching” as reasons for sticking with Trump.

“I think you just shouldn’t apologize,” said Evan Bochetto, 35, who owns a media production company and whose father, George, is a prominent GOP lawyer in the city. “If someone says, ‘Oh, you must be a terrible person, you’re voting for him.’ You say, “No, I’m not a terrible person.” This is my sacred right as a citizen. Now let’s talk about some things. Do you feel secure walking down the street at 11pm on a Saturday night? And many women say “no”.

If someone says, “Oh, you must be a terrible person, you’re voting for him.” You say, “No, I’m not a terrible person.” This is my sacred right as a citizen. Now let’s talk about some things. Do you feel secure walking down the street at 11pm on a Saturday night? Many women say “no”.

Evan Bochetto

There were only two women at the event – Lamorgese said there was a gender imbalance in young Republican clubs in large cities across the country. The group was also white, although the Trump campaign is working to raise support among black voters.

Claire Goldstein, 35, who works for compact businesses and lives in Washington Square, said she was voting for Trump because of “all the nonsense around the protests with Israel.”

“I think there should be a much tougher stance on the camps, where people are calling for the destruction of the country, people are calling for the death of Jews,” she said. “So listen, Trump has many flaws, but he is the opposite of this absolute nonsense that is running rampant through our city.”

Biden’s appeal to young voters

Earlier this year, the campaign launched the “Students for Biden-Harris” program, which aimed to build a huge volunteer base. The campaign praised Biden’s work protection of access to abortionwhich particularly appealed to young women who helped him win in 2020. The administration also committed unprecedented spending to address climate change AND student loan forgiveness.

Trump has made little specific appeal to young voters.

“Young voters want a president who fights for them, not one who shows up at UFC fights trying to get young people kicked off their parents’ insurance while bragging about siding with the NRA, which is doing nothing to curb gun violence , and is selling off our planets to oil and gas billionaires,” said Sarafina Chitika, Biden’s senior spokeswoman.

Researchers who study young voters are downplaying some recent studies showing a divide among young voters. Voters under 30 are less likely to take sides, but they remain more progressive than voters overall, and polls show they agree more with Biden than with Trump on some issues.

A poll conducted this spring by the Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) showed Biden with an 8-point advantage over Trump among young voters and 19 points among probably young voters.

“I don’t see strong evidence that Trump is significantly increasing young voters based on this data,” said John Della Volpe, a pollster at Harvard.

Polls also showed a greater move toward Biden among young, undecided voters. This is an opportunity for the Biden campaign to remind young voters, many of whom attended elementary school, when Trump was president Trump first condition.

“For an 18-19-year-old who was introduced to Trump at the age of 8, 9 or 10, his reflection on Charlottesville or the ban for Muslims will be completely different,” Della Volpe said. “They don’t necessarily agree with those values, they just have a different relationship and see him more as an anti-hero.”

The American Dream from Northeast Philadelphia

Young Republicans in Philadelphia say they feel some momentum among their peers. On a recent weeknight, about a dozen volunteers in their 20s and 30s showed up to canvass for Picozzi, a young candidate from the Northeast.

Picozzi, the son of a firefighter and an occupational therapist, is running for the longtime Democratic seat currently held by state Sen. Jimmy Dillon. He based his campaign on the “American Dream in Northeast Philadelphia”, appealing especially to young people starting families.

“The dream of Northeast Philadelphia is to have a home where kids can play outside, where they can afford a few coast trips and a few Eagles games a year,” Picozzi said.

Picozzi supports Trump but isn’t too keen on talking about his party’s presidential candidate, who was convicted of 34 felonies last month.

Several young supporters downplayed Trump’s conviction, calling it politically motivated or admitting they were used to the former president being a shocking political figure.

“I don’t think things have changed much for criminals,” said Shayne Gitteo, a 20-year-old student who volunteered at Picozzi last week. “His rhetoric is already pushing social boundaries in some ways. He says what people don’t want to hear. His expressions and reactions are so brutally sincere. And I really think that attracts young people to him.

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