Understanding the Millennial Generation: 16 Years of the Harvard IOP Poll

Before the term "millennials" was coined, a class of IOP students wanted to better understand their generation- what drives them to serve their communities, but not necessarily care about politics? The Harvard Youth Poll was created to find the answers.

Started in 2000, the Harvard Public Opinion Poll (HPOP) conducts biannual surveys of America’s 18- to 29-year olds. Each semester, a group of Harvard undergrads brainstorm and write questions for the poll, analyze the collected data, and present the results to the public under the guidance of IOP Director of Polling John Della Volpe.

“The survey helped put the youth vote on the map,” said Della Volpe.

Della Volpe and Jonathan Chavez, one of the earliest students involved with HPOP, told the story of the IOP youth poll and the influence it’s had on politics and our understanding of Millennials in a StoryCorps recording during the IOP’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Listen to their conversation below.

“There is nothing else out there that if you’re wanting to understand the millennial generation. If you’re really wanting to understand how the oldest of them in 2000 came into their life as adults and the contested election of Bush v. Gore, goes through 9/11 and the Iraq Wars, comes of age when they get impacted by the Great Recession more than anybody else, yet still emerge on the other side of that to be the engine behind one of the most historic elections in our history. It’s a story that can be told as a linear thing, and there is literally not another data set in the world that does that and that gives you the ability to tell the story of that generation,” explained Chavez.

The latest Harvard IOP Youth Poll results release on Monday, April 25 and takes a snapshot of young Americans’ thoughts on politics and other key issues. 

John Della Volpe and Jonathan Chavez


Recorded and produced by StoryCorps.​