Young Voters Lofted Biden to White House, But His Cabinet Skews Older

President-elect Joe Biden has been steadily rolling out his picks for major positions within his cabinet--a list of well-known faces, including several who served alongside him in the Obama administration.

By naming 38-year-old Pete Buttigieg as his pick for Transportation Secretary, Biden brought the average age of his nominees so far down from 61 to 59. U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., who he has since tapped as his Interior Secretary nominee, is 60.

At 78 years old, Biden will be the oldest president in the nation's history, but his election has been credited to support from younger voters, who are now expressing a mix of frustration over the slate but hope for what's to come.

Exit polls conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool show voters 18-29 years old picked Biden 62 percent to Trump's 35 percent; and voters aged 30-40 sided with Biden 52 percent to Trump's 45 percent.

The match-up was much closer among older voters—splitting nearly 50-50 between the two candidates, the exit polls research found.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, about 52 percent to 55 percent of eligible voters aged 18-29 cast ballots in 2020--up from the research group's estimate of 42 percent to 44 percent four years ago. CIRCLE's researchers concluded that their "overwhelming support for Biden—was decisive in key races across the country."

The Biden transition team didn't respond to Newsweek's request for comment for this story.

Joshua Harris-Till, president of the Young Democrats of America, a group for Democrats aged 14 to 35, said that the Biden transition team has quietly been holding meetings with young supporters every Thursday for several weeks.

"It's not showing up necessarily in the appointments, but there's definitely some intentional effort for inclusion," Harris-Till told Newsweek. "There's a real interest in the youth perspective and involvement."

Harris-Till, who has unsuccessfully run for the U.S. House twice—the first time at age 25, said the weekly calls have included people from various transition teams, up to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, themselves.

Some organizations declined to comment on the record when speaking to Newsweek to avoid appearing to criticize the incoming Biden administration. Others have been more outwardly outspoken, including groups that have been sending out regular news releases promoting their preferred candidates or criticizing some picks so far.

A coalition of progressive-minded youth groups, including the climate-focused Sunrise Movement; March for Our Lives, which was formed in the wake of the 2018 school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; and Justice Democrats sent a letter to Biden in April, stressing to his campaign that he needed "to have more young people enthusiastically supporting and campaigning with you to defeat Trump."

"Messaging around a 'return to normalcy' does not and has not earned the support and trust of voters from our generation," they wrote. "[Y]ou and your campaign must demonstrate a real passion and enthusiasm for engaging with our generation and its leaders."

Several of those same progressive-led groups tapped into the youth vote to aid Biden's win.

Rebecca Katz, a progressive consultant with New Deal Strategies, which partners with Justice Democrats, the Sunrise Movement and other progressive organizations, told Newsweek she thinks Biden's early picks have alienated some of those progressive youths.

"He seems to be going back in time a bit. Finding a lot of people he trusts," she said. "He seems to be alienating a lot of folks while he's doing it."

Harris-Till characterized it a bit differently.

"For me and for a lot of people I talk to, it's less about being disappointed and more about not being excited," he said.

Harris-Till said he was encouraged by news of Haaland's appointment to the Department of Interior. She'd be the first Native American in the role overseeing public lands. He said the Young Democrats had been preparing an official endorsement of her for the role during one of the upcoming weekly meetings. Haaland also had been publicly backed by Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement.

"To have a Native American woman in that position is phenomenal," Harris-Till said.

Katz said she remains interested in what comes next from the Biden administration.

"There's many qualified people who are persons of color and women who are up for big positions," Katz said. "Let's see how it goes."

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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at his transition headquarters on December 16, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty