Biden needs the TikTok generation. His awful debate won't help.

  • Social media is having a meltdown over Biden's debate performance.

  • Many felt disillusioned by the prospect of either candidate — and their ages.

  • Biden was struggling with Gen Z voters, many of whom get news from TikTok, even before the debate.

There was one potential bright side to Biden's horrendous performance at CNN's debate: relatively few people watched it.

But a critical demographic didn't need to watch it live.

Polls have shown Biden has glaring issues with Gen Z and millennial voters, with their support for him slipping even before the debate.

And those younger voters are turning to television less and less: Roughly one-third of Americans ages 18 to 29 consistently get their news from TikTok, a Pew Research Center survey from 2023 found.

But if Biden had hoped that TikTok would react to the debate better than panicking Democrats, he's going to be disappointed.

A study by the social-intelligence firm CredoIQ analyzed the top 450 TikToks about the debate, which together amassed about 483 million views.

The report found that 39% of those videos expressed negative sentiments about Biden alone.

By comparison, only 9.5% of those videos were negative solely about Trump, the study found. Negative TikToks about Biden also outpaced videos that were critical of both candidates, which made up about 35% of the videos.

Overall, TikTok users seem to find the whole event pretty dismal. CredoIQ said that only 5% of the top posts included any positive sentiments at all.

Biden's 'memeable' face

While political pundits have largely focused on Biden's bumbling answers, some on TikTok have focused instead on his "memeable face."

One video that compiled short clips of Biden looking confused, his mouth open and eyebrows furrowed, received over 5 million views. In the background, the creator can't help himself from laughing — hard.

Others compared Joe Biden now to Joe Biden of the past. A side-by-side video contrasting Biden's 2012 performance in the vice presidential debate and his performance Thursday attracted more than 8 million views, with many commenters saying he seemed like a different man.

"I need an Adderall prescription, and it's not for me, it's for fucking Joe Biden," James Charles, a popular influencer, said at the beginning of a video that garnered nearly 19 million views.

Charles trashed Trump in the two-minute rant as well, railing against his federal convictions and calling both candidates "corpses."

But Charles also faced a torrent of criticism over his video when he blamed Biden for the fall of abortion rights and Roe v. Wade.

And to be fair, Biden did have some defenders, with one creator surmising that his performance could've been the result of past health issues or his "speech impediment."

Nihilism all around

Many users mourned America's political trajectory beyond Biden himself, with critics calling out Trump's rampant lies and criminal charges.

One TikTok with nearly 18 million views compared the Obama-Romney 2012 matchup to the Trump-Biden disaster.

Obama and Romney's cordial exchange is set against patriotic music, while Trump and Biden's voices are sped up and higher pitched.

One commenter noted the candidates' ages, writing: "The fact that even today, Obama and Romney are both still younger than Biden or Trump is just sad."

"Give them both a pdf," one creator on X wrote in a post with 4.6 million views, "first one that can rotate it gets to be president."

Despite the dismal reception, there were several moments that stood out — and even inspired levity.

One Instagram post compiled the night's biggest quotables, including Biden's jab that Trump had the "morals of an alleycat," Trump calling Biden a "very bad Palestinian," and an argument over which candidate could hit the golf ball further.

"My fellow Americans," one commenter concluded, "we are so cooked."

Correction: July 1, 2024 — An earlier version of this article misstated the number of views a TikTok of clips of Biden looking confused received. It received over 5 million views, not almost 9 million.

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