Institute of Politics Spring 2018 Youth Poll

Spring 2018 marks the 35th National Youth Poll conducted by the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School examining the political opinions and civic engagement of young Americans ages 18 to 29. Since its conception by two Harvard undergraduate students in 2000, the Harvard Public Opinion Project has provided the most comprehensive look at the political opinions, voting trends, and views on public service held by young Americans. Beginning on April 10th, 2018 and continuing through the month of April, the IOP will release results from specific portions of the poll.

Updated results will be shared on this page.

April 18, 2018 -- Gun Control, NRA, the 2nd Amendment

Ahead of National School Walkout Day, anniversary of Columbine massacre, Harvard IOP youth poll finds stricter gun laws, ban on assault weapons favored by two-thirds of likely midterm voters under age 30

NRA image falters since Parkland, nearly half support amending Second Amendment

 

CAMBRIDGE, MA – A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the Kennedy School of Government, finds 70 percent of young Americans likely to vote in the upcoming midterms believe that gun control laws in the United States should be more strict.  Overall, 64 percent of 18-to 29-year-olds hold this view. 

This finding represents a 15-point increase from polling conducted by the IOP in 2013, months after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting when 49 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds supported stricter laws.  One-in-ten (10%) 18-to 29-year-olds believe gun laws should be less strict today, while 22 percent think they should be kept the same as they are now. 

Five years ago, 15 percent preferred that guns laws were less strict, while 36 percent favored keeping things the same.  Increased levels of support for more stringent gun laws can be found among young Americans regardless of political affiliation: support increased 16 percentage points among Democrats (69% to 85%), 17 points among Republicans (20% to 37%) and 11 points among Independents (49% to 60%).

During the same time frame, Harvard IOP polling also found a 17-point increase in the number of young Americans who support a ban on assault weapons.  In 2013, 41 percent of 18- to 29-year-old members of the Millennial generation supported an assault weapon ban, 32 percent opposed it, and 26 percent were unsure.  Today, we find that nearly three-in-five (58%) support a ban, while opposition stands at 27 percent, and those who do not have an opinion reduced to 13 percent.  Young Americans who are likely midterm voters are significantly more supportive of a ban (67%) than their peers who are less likely to vote (52%).  Seventy-six percent (76%) of Democrats support a ban today (+19 since 2013), 43 percent of Republicans (+20 since 2013) and 48 percent of Independents (+10 since 2013).

The Harvard IOP poll also found that favorability of the NRA has suffered since the Parkland, Florida shooting.  In the IOP's Fall report which was released weeks after the Las Vegas shooting, NRA favorability stood at 34 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable.  Today, 31 percent of young Americans have a favorable opinion, while 53 percent have an unfavorable view.  The number of those who have never heard of the NRA is reduced from 23 percent in the Fall to 16 percent today.  NRA favorability was the only gun-related question tracked from Fall 2017 that showed significant, double-digit change.

Additional findings from the Harvard Public Opinion Project on gun control-related issues are:

  • 77% of likely young American voters say that gun control will be an important issue in determining their vote in 2018;
  • 47% of all 18- to 29-year-olds support amending the Second Amendment;
  • 47% believe that the student-led protests and organizing related to the Parkland School Shooting will have a lasting impact on gun laws in the U.S.

"For several years, the opinions of young Democrats, Republicans and Independents have been steadily shifting toward greater support for gun control measures. We now find a strong majority of 18-to-29 year-olds -- and two-thirds of likely voters  -- supporting stricter gun laws and a ban on assault weapons," said IOP Polling Director John Della Volpe.  "The difference today is that the Parkland students have created an environment where the lack of progress on reducing gun violence is now symbolic of all the ills plaguing Washington, D.C.  The intensity among gun control advocates is palpable, and this is now a lethal issue for incumbents standing for re-election in the fall."

This poll of N=2,631 18- to 29- year-olds, which was organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project, was conducted using GfK’s probability-based online sampling methodology between March 8 and March 25, 2018. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 2.54 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

 

April 17, 2018 -- Opioid Crisis

Harvard youth poll finds two-thirds of young Americans support expanding use of medical marijuana to combat opioid crisis, 32% support supervised injection sites in their city or town

A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the Kennedy School of Government, finds that two-thirds (66%) of young Americans support expanding the use of medical marijuana as a substitute for chronic pain patients who are currently being prescribed opioids.  While Democrats (76% support) are significantly more likely than Republicans (53%) and Independents (64%) to support this policy, a majority across all parties support expanding the use of medical marijuana for this purpose.

Overall, 12 percent of young Americans (approximately 6.4 million) report that they, a close friend or family member have been affected by the growing opioid crisis in America.  Young whites (16%) and Americans living in the Northeast (17%) are the most likely to indicate that they have been affected. Nine percent of young Hispanics, six percent of Blacks and two percent of Asian-Americans say they have been affected. Across the Midwest, South, and West, 11 percent say this crisis has impacted them in a personal way.

Opinions related to locating supervised injection sites in their city or town for those addicted to opioids are less formed.  The Harvard Public Opinion Project found that 32 percent support the sites, 36 percent oppose them, and 30 percent do not currently have an opinion. A plurality of those affected oppose the sites (44% oppose, 39% support). With approval at 42 percent, Democrats are far more likely to be supportive of this potential policy initiative than Republicans (16% support, 55% oppose) and Independents (32% support, 34% oppose).

For one member of the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP), these findings hit home. “My father lives in constant pain. He has been prescribed opioids and I have seen that they can give life to people who experience debilitating pain. Once medical marijuana was legalized, he was able to move to that treatment and I saw him become a healthier, happier person who was able to better manage his pain," said Iris Feldman, a sophomore from San Francisco, CA.

“As efforts continue to mitigate overdose mortality and HIV infection, young Americans are about evenly split in their support, opposition, or lack of opinion toward safe injection sites among opioid users. We have a need for further research on these controversial proposals as we move forward in solving the nationwide crisis," said Samuel Zwickel, a freshman from Chippewa Falls, WI who is also a member of HPOP.

This poll of N=2,631 18- to 29- year-olds, which was organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project, was conducted using GfK’s probability-based online sampling methodology between March 8 and March 25, 2018. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 2.54 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Click here to see opiod toplines (beginning on page 17)

April 11, 2018 -- Populism, State of Democracy

Nearly Two-Thirds of Young Americans Fearful About the Future of Democracy in America, Harvard youth poll finds

Politicians, Money in Politics, the Media, Political Correctness, Structural Racism and Access to Higher Education Contributing Factors

A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the Kennedy School of Government, finds that nearly two-thirds (64%) of young Americans have more fear than hope about the future of democracy in America.  

For the first time, the Harvard Public Opinion Project asked a series of questions about how responsible 18- to 29-year-olds believed different groups were for the existing problems in American politics and society today.  Politicians were viewed as very or somewhat responsible by at least 7-in-10 young Americans, regardless of political affiliation.   Money in politics and the media were mentioned by at least 6-in-10 Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

  • Young Democrats under 30 blamed politicians (77% responsible), Donald Trump (77% responsible), money in politics (75% responsible), structural racism (69% responsible) and lack of access to higher education (66% responsible) as the most significant factors responsible for the state of politics and society today.
  • The top five factors Republicans believe are responsible are: the media (72%), politicians (70% responsible), political correctness (64% responsible), money in politics (63% responsible), with other Americans (45%), a distant fifth. 

"Young Americans are deeply concerned and fearful about our country’s future," said IOP Polling Director John Della Volpe.  "There’s a healthy debate raging on the reasons why – politicians, media, big money, political correctness, and structural barriers like racism and access to education are all contributing factors in the eyes of millennials and post-millennials. Yet, there is no debate that young people are working hard to bridge these divides, finding pragmatic solutions and instilling hope for a stronger democracy." 

This poll of N=2,631 18- to 29- year-olds, which was organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project, was conducted using GfK’s probability-based online sampling methodology between March 8 and March 25, 2018. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 2.54 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

State of Democracy
 

 

Populism:

 

Read the toplines from this poll here.

 

April 10, 2018 -- President Trump, Midterms, Technology Companies   

Democratic control of Congress preferred 69%-28% over Republicans, majority of young Democrats “definitely voting” in midterm elections, Harvard youth poll find

A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the Kennedy School of Government, finds a marked increase in the number of young Americans who indicate that they will “definitely be voting” in the upcoming midterm Congressional elections. Overall, 37 percent of Americans under 30 indicates that they will “definitely be voting,” compared to 23 percent who said the same in 2014, and 31 percent in 2010, the year of the last “wave” election.

 

Young Democrats are driving nearly all of the increase in enthusiasm; a majority (51%) report that they will “definitely” vote in November, which represents a 9-percentage point increase since November 2017 and is significantly larger than the 36 percent of Republicans who say the same. At this point in the 2014 election cycle, 28 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans indicated that they would “definitely” be voting. In the Spring of 2010, 35 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans held a similar interest in voting.

Preference for Democratic control of Congress has grown between now and the time of the last IOP poll. In Fall 2017, there was a 32-point partisan gap among the most likely young voters, 65 percent preferring Democrats control Congress, with 33 percent favoring Republicans.

Today, the gap has increased to 41 points, 69 percent supporting Democrats and 28 percent Republicans. “Millennials and post-Millennials are on the verge of transforming the culture of politics today and setting the tone for the future,” said John Della Volpe, Polling Director at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. “This generation of young Americans is as engaged as we have ever seen them in a midterm election cycle.

The concern they have voiced for many years about the direction of the country is being channeled into a movement that will extend to the midterms elections and beyond.”

This poll of N=2,631 18- to 29- year olds, which was organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project, was conducted using GfK’s probability-based online sampling methodology between March 8 and March 25, 2018. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 2.54 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
 

Trump approval remains at 25% overall, 34% on the economy.

 

Approval of President Trump remains the same as it was in our last poll, 25 percent approve of his performance, 72 percent disapprove. One year ago, his approval was 32 percent. President Trump's highest marks come on his handling of the economy, where approximately one-third (34%) approve of his job (-3 since Fall 2017), ISIS (31% today, -1 since Fall 2017) and tax reform (31% today, +2 since Fall 2017). His lowest marks come on his handling of race relations (21% approve today, -1 since last Fall) and gun violence (24% approve, -6 since last Fall).

President Trump’s approval ratings on both North Korea and health care are 27 percent and on climate change it is 22 percent. Approval of Congressional Democrats is 41 percent, (-1 Since Fall 2017) and Congressional Republicans is 24 percent (+1 since Fall 2017).
 

Amazon, Google considerably more trusted than Uber, Twitter, Facebook.
 

Weeks before the Cambridge Analytica story broke about the misuse of Facebook data, Harvard Public Opinion Project students were interested in young Americans views of technology companies engaged in the public realm. Using the same framework that we apply to public institutions and agencies, we find that Amazon and Google are held in relatively high esteem, especially when compared to Uber, Twitter, and Facebook.

Overall, 45 percent of 18- to 29- year olds indicated that they trust Amazon, and 44 percent reported that they trust Google, “all” or “most of the time.” Fourteen percent (14%) indicated that they never trust Amazon, and 15 percent said the same about Google. Approximately half as many young Americans indicate that they trust (all or most of the time) Uber, Twitter, and Facebook when compared to Amazon and Google, and nearly a quarter of the population (between 22% and 24%) never trust them.

College and university administrations top the list of most trusted institutions in survey.

Despite media coverage that might suggest otherwise, college students have largely positive views of their college and university administrations, and few partisan differences emerge. Overall, 61 percent of college students report trusting their administration all or most of the time, which places colleges and universities ahead of the U.S. military (51% trust all or most of the rime, -1 since Spring 2017), the Department of Justice (45%), the Supreme Court (43%, -3) and the FBI (42%), among public institutions. Similar to last year’s results, Congress (17% trust all or most of the time, -3 since Spring 2017), the media (16%, even since Spring 2017), and Wall Street (-12, even since Spring 2017) are the least trusted institutions that were measured.

Click here to download the top lines results.

Click here for a set of graphics and data visualizations.

Throughout the month of April, we will be releasing additional details and poll results on topics including: gun control, the 2nd Amendment, and the NRA; the border wall, DACA, and immigration policy; sexual harassment, assault, and the #MeToo movement; use of and interest in joining the U.S. military; the opioid crisis; and public service and community service.