Trump courts America’s youth vote with vow to end tax on tips

Trump has confounded modern voting trends to come within striking distance of Joe Biden among young voters in several polls
Trump has confounded modern voting trends to come within striking distance of Joe Biden among young voters in several polls - John Locher/AP

Donald Trump could become the first Republican presidential candidate in a generation to win the youth vote, polls suggest, as he proposed ending taxation on tips.

Trump, 77, has confounded modern voting trends to come within striking distance of Joe Biden among young voters in several polls, even beating the Democratic president in some surveys.

A major New York Times/Siena College poll of likely voters in April found Mr Biden had just a two-point lead over Trump among 18 to 29-year-olds, 47 per cent to 45 per cent.

Trump was marginally ahead of Mr Biden – 48 per cent to 47 per cent – among registered voters aged between 18 and 34 in a recent Quinnipiac University survey.

Democratic strategists have been alarmed by the data, and suggested concerns over the 81-year-old president’s age, and his support for Israel in its war in Gaza, are to blame.

Millennials and Gen Z overwhelmingly backed Mr Biden in 2020 by a margin of 24 per cent.

An erosion in support among the group could be catastrophic for his hopes of winning a second term.

Despite the president’s efforts to keep them on side, with large spending on cancelling student debt, and aggressively championing abortion rights, there are signs young people are warming to the Republican Party.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll in March found a higher proportion of 18 to 29-year-olds now identifies as Republican, going from 24 per cent in 2016 to 28 per cent this year.

While pollsters have cautioned that surveying young voters is notoriously difficult, if the trend is reflected on election day on Nov 5, it would represent a major generational shift.

No Republican presidential nominee has won young voters since George HW Bush in 1988.

Trump’s outreach to America’s youth has been reflected in a number of policy proposals at odds with his party’s stance.

They include his surprise opposition to a ban on the platform TikTok, something he once embraced, and which has bipartisan support in Congress, particularly from GOP senators eager to take an aggressive stance on China.

Trump has also embraced digital currencies, and the use of digital assets such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

At a recent fundraiser in Silicon Valley, Trump promised to be a “crypto president” as he presented himself as a champion for cryptocurrency and contrasted Democrats’ attempts to regulate the sector.

His most overt outreach to America’s younger generations came over the weekend, with his promise to end taxation on income derived from tips.

“When I get to office, we are going to not charge taxes on tips,” he said at a rally near the Las Vegas strip in Nevada, a battleground state that is heavily dependent on the hospitality industry.

He narrowly lost Nevada in 2020 and 2016, and the state is seen as closely competitive again this November.

Trump, who owns service-industry businesses himself, promised the crowd in Las Vegas that the city’s hotel staff were “going to be very happy”.

He added: “We’re going to do that right away, first thing in office, because it’s been a point of contention for years and years and years.”

However, the tax change would require approval from Congress, and would likely reduce federal revenue by tens of billions of dollars annually.

Analysts also said the policy would create an incentive for employers, who are required to pay taxes on both tips and wages, to keep wages low and pressure customers to tip more.

Trump’s policy proposal on tipping may also boost his support among Hispanic voters, a critical constituency in Nevada and several other battleground regions, and whom polls suggest are abandoning Mr Biden.

Despite Trump’s inroads with America’s youth, polls also suggest a shift at the other end of the electorate, with Mr Biden leading overall among voters aged 65 and older in the Quinnipiac study.

If the polls are true, it would suggest an age inversion, with no Democratic presidential candidate carrying the senior vote since Al Gore in 2000.

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