Harvard IOP Winter 17 Poll


Solid Majority of America’s 18- to 29- year-olds support a national service program

Published on Februrary 2, 2017

Young Republicans are more hopeful about the future of America by a margin of 10 to 1 after President Donald Trump’s inaugural address, while young Democrats are fearful and independents are split between hopeful and fearful, finds a new national poll of America’s 18- to 29- year-olds by Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics (IOP).

Young Americans agree that the overall tone and level of civility in American politics has decreased in the last five years, with 62% of all 18-29 year olds saying civility decreased, 27% saying it stayed the same, and 11% say increased. This abbreviated poll release is in conjunction with the IOP’s National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement Conference that will host 60 college students from across the country to discuss community-based tactics to reconnect America on February 3-5 at the IOP.

“Of particular interest to millennials throughout the 2016 campaign was their concern about repayment of student loan debt. Post campaign, young adults are still very much focused on this issue. More than half of those interviewed support the creation of a national service program that is linked to student loan forgiveness. We suspect that in the near future, national, state and local leaders will hear directly from millennials on this important issue,” said Maggie Williams, Director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

The KnowledgePanel® survey of 771 18- to 29- year-old U.S. citizens with a margin of error of +/– 4 percentage points (95% confidence level) conducted with the Government and Academic Research team of GfK for the IOP between January 20 and 22 also finds:

  • Young Americans Split on President Trump’s Inaugural Address: After watching President Trump’s inaugural address, young Americans feel split between hopeful, fearful, and unsure about the future of America. A majority of young Republicans feel more hopeful (Hopeful: 70%; Fearful: 8%; Not Sure: 21%). While nearly half of Democrats are fearful (Hopeful: 11%; Fearful: 48%; Not Sure: 35%). Among independents, 34% are hopeful, 33% are fearful, and 32% are not sure.
  • Majority Believe Tone and Civility Have Decreased in American Politics: More than three in five 18-29 year olds believe the overall tone and level of civility in American politics over the last five years have decreased (Decreased: 62%; Stayed the Same: 27%; Increased: 11%). A majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, agree about the decrease in civility (Democrats: 54%; Republicans: 72%; Independents: 67%).
  • Post-Election, One-Quarter of 18-29 Year Olds Are Motivated to Get Involved: Since the last election, 25% of young Americans say they are more motivated to get involved in politics and public service. Taking into account the size of the millennial generation, this signifies that approximately 14 million young Americans want to be engaged.
  • Majority of Young Americans Support National Service: 61% of young Democrats, 64% of young Republicans and 51% of young Independents support the creation of “a national service program for Americans under the age of 25 that would be linked to student loan forgiveness or other relevant incentives.”
  • President Barack Obama’s Approval at All-Time High: At the end of his term, President Obama’s approval rating topped 60% among young Americans for the first time (Approve: 64%; Disapprove: 35%). His approval was at 95% among young Democrats, 25% among Republicans and 63% among independents.


OmniWeb using the KnowledgePanel ™ is a national online omnibus service of GfK Custom Research North America.  The KnowledgePanel™ is the only commercially available online probability panel in the marketplace; making the sample truly projectable to the US population, which sets it apart from traditional “opt-in” or “convenience” panels.

To recruit panel members, we use ABS (address-based sampling) as the primary methodology -- a probability-based approach that includes cell phone-only households. For non-Internet households, we provide Internet access and a laptop for the completion of online surveys:  Therefore, the sample is not limited to only those who already have Internet access. The representativeness of its sample -- including hard-to-reach groups such as young adults, males and minorities -- has been documented in numerous academic papers

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Our mission at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics (IOP) is to create the future of politics and public service every day, inspiring undergraduates to lead lives of purpose by committing themselves to the practice of politics and governing, and to public service and the countless opportunities to serve at home and around the world. The IOP was established in 1966 as a memorial to President Kennedy.

GfK is one of the world’s largest research companies, with more than 12,000 experts working to discover new insights into the way people live, think and shop, in over 100 markets, every day. GfK is constantly innovating and using the latest technologies and the smartest methodologies to give its clients the clearest understanding of the most important people in the world: their customers. In 2012, GfK’s sales amounted to EUR 1.51 billion. To find out more, visit www.gfk.com.