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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Robert F. Kennedy is Popular Among Young Voters, but can he Shake up the Election?

Abby Benner

With the Republican Primaries effectively coming to an end, the options for the 2024 Presidential Race have been whittled down. While Trump and Biden are poised to lock horns in a rematch of the 2020 election, there is one big difference this time around, a third-party candidate who’s increasingly popular with young people.

Robert F. Kennedy Junior has cemented himself as the most popular of the third-party candidates this election. While he is still a long shot for the Oval Office, he has offered a nonpartisan perspective on the election that some young people find refreshing.

According to a poll by Gallup, in January, Kennedy was viewed favorably by 52% of Americans. He is considerably more favorable than both Trump and Biden, especially among young people. Trump and Biden have seen their favorability among young voters decline since the 2020 election. One Quinnipiac University poll had Kennedy winning 38% of registered voters ages 18-34, compared to Biden’s 32% and Trump’s 27%.

The 70-year-old independent candidate is younger than both Trump and Biden and is seen as less divisive by some. While Kennedy has not seen this type of publicity for a long time, he comes from a political dynasty unlike any other. His uncle was John F. Kennedy and the son of the former Attorney General and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Senior.

Despite his lengthy connections to American politics, his 2024 candidacy has alienated him from some of his relatives who are firm supporters of Biden.

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, his siblings Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and brother Joseph P Kennedy II said, “The decision of our brother Bobby to run as a third-party candidate against Joe Biden is dangerous to our country, Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment. Today’s announcement is deeply saddening for us. We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country.”

While his family is not a fan of his run for president, other young people are. Kennedy has toured over 500 college campuses and spoke to students at each. For most of those meetings, he focused on environmental issues including rampant fossil fuel consumption and protecting Native American Lands. Kennedy has spoken against rising housing costs, supports a ban on large companies buying single family homes and wants a 3% mortgage rate for first time home buyers.

His stances regarding public health issues include opposing vaccinations and claiming COVID-19 had been engineered to affect different races. Kennedy was also scrutinized for speaking out against vaccinations on the Lex Fridman Podcast.

“There’s no vaccine that is, you know, safe and effective,” Kennedy said.

Lately, Kennedy has taken to more unorthodox forms of media in order to promote his campaign. He has begun to appear on some of the more popular podcasts online such as the Joe Rogan Experience, Lex Fridman Podcast, and This Past Weekend with Theo Von. It comes as a surprise that a presidential candidate would brush shoulders with comedians and podcast hosts.

Some Loyola students say his campaign has an underground feel to it like he is a part of the counterculture and is working against the establishment.

“I think he is better than Trump or Biden, he’s younger and more likable. I can hear what he has to say, Trump and Biden might not even debate one another but RFK is accessible,” Liam Oates ‘25 said.

Kennedy has found support among moderates and young people who have not liked presidential politics over the past eight years. Some on both sides of the aisle are in search of a candidate less polarizing than either Trump or Biden.

“I think he’s pretty bipartisan, I can remember an interview where he talked about tax cuts for businesses that use clean energy. I think he could get a lot of good done that way, he can get more compromise than the other two,” Maryland resident Paul Ruch ‘25 said.

Not all young people are sold on Kennedy. A fair bit of his appeal comes from the fact that he is a new face and less polarizing than Trump or Biden. But some of his policy ideas fall flat. His anti-vax standpoint has come under fire, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to an article in The Hill, Kennedy said, “I do not believe that there is, within that Second Amendment, that there’s anything we can meaningfully do to reduce the trade in the ownership of guns.”

Despite what is seen as shortcomings in his policy, some young people still find him preferable to Trump or Biden.

“Overall, he’s definitely better than Trump but I think gun control is very important and I don’t know if he’ll do much to stop gun violence,” Hayden Beach ‘25 said.

In a very difficult and polarized political climate, Kennedy has been considered by some to be a more reasonable candidate for those who do not find Trump or Biden to be the best candidates.

Aidan Hunter ‘24, host of the Zenerational Perspective Podcast, a Gen Z oriented podcast shared his opinion on Kennedy.

“I went to a rally and I thought he seemed like an honest, stand-up guy. He had a really young and diverse crowd there which surprised me. He broke down the issues facing the country one by one and gave in depth plans on how he’d solve them,” Hunter said.

Being a third-party candidate, Kennedy needs signatures to make his way onto ballots in some states. His social media campaign has stepped up recently and he has steadily been working his way onto more ballots. Dr. Douglas Harris, a political science professor at Loyola University Maryland, said some third party and independent candidates do little more than spend money and step any closer to becoming president.

“These are novelties that have no chance of victory. This is not due to tradition or cultural bias against them, but it is due instead to the electoral system the United States employs that makes it difficult to impossible for third party candidacies to win,” Harris said.

“At most, these candidacies could spoil the attempt of one of the major candidates to win; the irony is that such candidacies only hurt the major party with which they have the most in common.”

This is the second in a four part series about the 2024 election season. The third part of the series will be continued by Samantha Jones.

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