Spring 2020 Harvard IOP Youth Poll Results

Spring 2020 Harvard IOP Youth Poll Results




**View Executive Summary and Topline Results**

CAMBRIDGE, MA - A new national survey of America’s 18- to 29- year-olds by the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School finds that former Vice President Joe Biden significantly leads President Donald Trump among all young Americans (+23), and his advantage among likely voters (+30) is comparable to what Senator Bernie Sanders would have enjoyed at the top of the Democratic ticket. 

Concern about the Coronavirus and health care, replaced the economy and environment (Fall 2019), as the issues of most significant national concern when young Americans were asked in an open-ended question. 

“Well before COVID-19 struck, we knew this to be a generation anxious about their future. The pandemic brought these anxieties into focus,” said John Della Volpe, Director of Polling for the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. “In the survey, we found that stress related to debt, the cost of housing, access to health care, mental health resources, and concern about whether or not loved ones will survive Coronavirus are the prism from which young Americans will view and engage in this campaign. Self-defense, in 2020, is one of the primary motivations for voting.” 

Leading into the COVID-19 crisis, the vast majority of young Americans disapprove of Trump’s performance as President and twice as many young Americans report Trump making their life worse than better. Only a small minority of young people think the country is working as it should be, and more than half are weighed down by issues such as debt and housing. Broadly, the poll characterizes a generation of American voters impacted by economic struggle and dissatisfied with the inadequacies of politics today. 

“Our analysis was informed by our on the ground experience talking with young voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina,” said Cathy Sun ‘22, Chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project. “Their struggles with economic insecurity, confrontations with racial inequity, and disillusionment with political platitudes greatly informed our questions and analysis in this poll. Starting with these intimate conversations, we have dug deep into the roots of their political attitudes and their desire for generational change.”

This poll of N=2,546 18- to 29- year-olds was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs using the KnowledgePanel Calibration approach. In this approach, the calibrating sample was provided by the KnowledgePanel probability-based sample source (n=1,002), while the sample to be calibrated was provided by non-probability, opt-in web panel sample sources (n=1,544). Interviews were conducted between March 11 and March 23, 2020. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 2.78 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. 

Top findings of this survey, the 39th in a biannual series, include the following:

  1. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump among all young Americans 51%-28%; Biden’s advantage is extended to 60%-30% among the 18-to 29- year olds most likely to vote.
  2. Less than 10% believe that the country is working as it should be; the majority of young Americans prefer reform over the replacement of current institutions.
  3. COVID-19 and health care top the list of national issues for young Americans. Pluralities tell us they’re concerned about accessing health care, mental health services if needed, and that someone they know might die from Coronavirus. 
  4. Two-thirds (67%) of 25- to 29- year olds carry debt; 63% of all young adults under 30 are concerned about the impact housing costs will have on their future.
  5. 85% percent of young Americans -- including 94% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans -- favor some measure of reform to student loan debt challenges facing their generation.
  6. Young Americans are divided sharply along racial lines in their identification with, sense of belonging and trust in American institutions.
  7. More than three-in-five (61%) young Americans, and 75% of likely voters agree that the outcome of the 2020 presidential election will make a difference in their lives; President Trump is a highly motivating factor for young voters.
  8. Two-thirds (66%) of young Americans disapprove of President Trump’s job performance -- and by a two-to-one margin, they say the President has made their lives worse. 
  9. A dramatic change since the days after 9/11, 62% of undergraduates now consider themselves patriotic. Support for capitalism (45%) and socialism (30%) generally unchanged since 2016.
  10. Five political segments of young Americans identified, 43% representing an active left, 11% following President Trump’s Republican party. Five distinct ideological segments of young Americans were identified (using 15 typology statements, factor analysis, and a K-means clustering algorithm) that transcend traditional labels and are useful in understanding the nuanced views that young millennials and Generation Z hold toward politics today.

Click here to view the full findings in more detail.

About the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School
The Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School was established in 1966 as a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy. The Institute’s mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis to inspire them to consider careers in politics and public service.

The Harvard Youth Poll examines the political opinions and civic engagement of young Americans ages 18- to- 29. Since 2000, the student-led 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. The Institute blends the academy with practical politics and offers students the opportunity to engage on current events and to acquire skills and perspectives that will assist in their postgraduate choices.

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