Harvard Youth Poll

38th Edition
Fall 2019


A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29- year-olds by the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School finds the majority of young Americans support impeachment and removal of President Trump, and Senator Elizabeth Warren surging into second place and trailing Senator Bernie Sanders by only six points among those most likely to vote in the 2020 primaries and caucuses. According to the 38th poll of young Americans, fifty-two percent (52%) of young Americans and 58% of likely general election voters under 30 believe that President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while Sanders leads the field with 28%, Warren 22%, and former Vice President Joe Biden is third with 16%, with no other candidate polling in the double digits at this time.

Additional questions and insights from the Harvard Youth Poll revealed on Monday, November 18th, show that young voters are divided on the scope and style of change needed for the nation. Important divides are emerging between general election and democratic primary voters on ending private insurance, electoral college form, and gun control. This poll is the 38th release in a series dating back to 2000 that has tracked the youth vote going through several Presidential cycles and primaries.

“Young Americans are divided on the scope of change they seek in Washington. Among likely 2020 young voters, pragmatic has taken the lead in the race between pragmatic and progressive,” said John Della Volpe, Director of Polling at the Institute of Politics. “When looking at young Democratic primary voters, bold structural change is preferred, but not by as much as you might think.”

When young Americans were asked to choose between two potential governing philosophies, more (40%) prefer than oppose policies that "stand a good chance of being achieved as opposed to sweeping changes that will be difficult to carry out." Slightly more than a third (34%) prefer the alternative "big structural policy changes that address the urgency of the problems that we are facing, even if they will not be easy to carry out."

Among young Americans who are most likely to vote in the November 2020 general election, we find support for the more pragmatic approach, 44% to 40%.

However, for those likely to vote in a Democratic primary, preferences were reversed. Forty-five percent (45%) of these voters prefer the approach that deals with "big, structural policy changes that address the urgency of the problems that we are facing, even if they will not be easy to carry out," compared to 39% who prefer the more pragmatic position.

“Findings from the Harvard Youth Poll show that young Americans are open to ideas that older generations have traditionally written off. Voters under 30 are not bound by precedent or old institutional norms.” said Richard Sweeney ‘21, Harvard College and co-chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project. “Proponents of structural reforms shouldn’t take young voters for granted, and those who favor a more gradual approach shouldn’t write us off. Millennials and Gen Z-ers will be one-third of the eligible voting population in 2020. We’re listening, and we’re voting.”

This latest Harvard IOP Youth Poll indicates young voters between 18 and 29 years old rank "integrity" and "vision" as far more important than "youth" when choosing a president.

Since the Spring 2019 Harvard Youth Poll, conducted March 8-20, 2019, among likely voters Sanders’ vote total has decreased three percentage points (-3 and within the margin of error), while Warren has gained 18 points (was 4%) and has improved her standing from fifth to second place. During the same time period the poll found:  Biden -4, entrepreneur Andrew Yang +4, Mayor Pete Buttigieg +3, former Representative Beto O’Rourke -6, Senator Kamala Harris -2, and Senator Cory Booker -2.

“The enthusiasm of young Americans that resulted in historic turnout in the 2018 midterms shows no signs of abating heading into 2020,” said John Della Volpe, Director of Polling for the Institute of Politics. “And unlike the last three Democratic primaries where President Obama and Senator Sanders dominated the youth vote, it is very much up for grabs in 2020.”

Top findings of this survey, the 38th in a biannual series, include the following:

Key Takeaways

More young Americans support dismantling the Electoral College than oppose.

More young Americans support eliminating private health insurance than oppose.

Majority of young Americans support background checks and assault weapon ban; more support mandatory buyback program for assault weapons than oppose.

Most young Americans supportive of billionaires, only 16% don’t think they shouldn’t be able to exist.

Other than a change from the current path, there is no youth consensus for best approach moving forward.

As the election nears, Democrats are becoming more hopeful about America.

Young Republicans are far less comfortable sharing their political views with professors than Democrats and Independents.

Youth, especially Democrats, are more engaged than at the same point in the 2016 contests.

Democrats and Republicans value different attributes in presidential candidates.

Trump enjoys a commanding lead in the Republican primary against Weld, Walsh, and Sanford.

In the 2020 general election, more than two-thirds of youth are likely to vote against Donald Trump.

Approval ratings of President Trump, Democrats and Republicans in Congress, largely unchanged since spring.

Detailed Visualization


This poll of N=2,075 18- to 29- year-olds, organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP) and directed by John Della Volpe, was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs using the KnowledgePanel Calibration approach. In this approach, the calibrating sample was provided by the KnowledgePanel probably-based sample source (n=1,020), while the sample to be calibrated was provided by non-probability, opt-in web panel sample sources (n=1,055). Interviews were conducted between October 15 and October 28, 2019. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3.02 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.