June 6, 2023

When Ethan Hayes, a senior at Howard University, discusses politics with his mother, they don’t always agree.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Mr. Hayes was skeptical of Joseph R. Biden Jr. because of his record in the criminal justice field. His mother, Lindi Hayes, who said she grew up in a “rather conservative” Christian household, thought otherwise.

“Well, look at the alternative,” Ms. Hayes told her son, warning of four more years of President Donald J. Trump.

“I don’t want to look at the alternative,” Mr. Hayes would reply. “I want to look at someone brand new.”

The split between mother and son reflects a wider generational divide among black voters on President Biden, who needs their support as he runs for re-election. While black voters were a major constituency that sent Mr Biden to the White House in 2020, polls show that black voters under 30 are much less enthusiastic about Mr Biden than their elders.

The Democratic National Committee said it has invested in reaching young black voters through a variety of initiatives, including providing grants to states to expand voter registration and hiring campus organizers in battlefield states.

But Quentin James, a co-founder of the Collective Pac, an organization that aims to elect black officials, said the generation gap “was going to be a huge challenge for Democrats.”

“I am very nervous in our ability to not only retain black voters, but engage younger black voters in the way that is necessary to win 2024,” James said.

The New York Times spoke to students at Howard, the famous historically black college, in the days leading up to Mr Biden’s speech there on Saturday. Most of them said they would still vote for Mr. Biden instead of a Republican. They spoke about their views, how their views differ from their parents’ – and what they want for the future.

Here’s what some of those young voters think:

“I don’t really see any other contenders at this point,” said Mr. Coulibaly, a 20-year-old Maryland finance major.

Still, he said he was disappointed with the White House’s response to the state’s efforts to curtail abortion rights. He was there when Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about abortion last month in a speech to Howard, her alma mater. He remembers thinking, “This feels good, but what’s the plan?”

Mr. Coulibaly tends to be more progressive than his parents. His mother supports the right to abortion, but doesn’t speak about it often, he said. She supports Mr Biden “much more” than he does, Mr Coulibaly said. But he still intends to vote for the president.

“He’s old and white, and I’m young and black,” said Mrs. Muhammad, a 20-year-old nutrition scientist from New Jersey. “It’s just a really big disconnect.”

She plans to vote in 2024, but does not yet know who she will vote for. Her parents voted for Mr. Biden because they believed he had the best chance of beating Mr. Trump. She expects them to vote for Mr. Biden again.

“I want more from him than from my parents,” said Ms. Muhammad.

“My biggest stance is on education,” said Mr. Brantley, a 20-year-old political scientist from Chicago. “To have well-rounded burgers, you have to make sure it’s affordable.”

Mr Brantley said he appreciated Mr Biden helping the economy recover from the pandemic. He also said he would look into what happened to Mr Biden’s student loan plan, which was held up in court. While Mr Brantley supports the plan, he said his father did not believe in “handouts”.

“Unfortunately, my father thinks I should be someone who pays back my own student debt,” Mr Brantley said.

“I feel like when there’s a vote, it’s always the lesser of two evils,” says Ms. Senat, a New York biology student. She said she would not describe herself as “enthusiastic” about the presidential campaign.

Her parents support Mr. Biden in opening a legal avenue for Haitian immigrants, but she thinks the president could do more to invest in her parents’ home in Haiti.

“More can be done,” she said.

“It will be great to have someone who is young,” says Mr. Mensah, a Minnesota civil engineer. He plans to vote in his first presidential election in 2024. But he said he hoped for a candidate closer to his age.

“Not to offend Joe Biden, but I feel like it’s a stress for him,” he said.

He does credit Mr. Biden for canceling a student debt.

“If that can get through, that’s a huge achievement,” Mr Mensah said. “Taking that out would be great, not just for people who are in huge debt, but also for people like me who are coming up.”

Mr. Hayes and his mother agree on most policies. But he said he would not vote for Mr Biden from now on.

He acknowledges that unlike Mr. Trump, the president doesn’t say “crazy” things on Twitter. But those antics didn’t bother him.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Mr. Hayes, supply chain management major from Indiana. “That won’t affect my life, mate. I just feel like I’m not being helped. He takes the mood for granted.”