Harvard Youth Poll

46th Edition
Fall 2023


A national poll released today by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School indicates that among 18-to-29-year-olds, President Biden's approval rating stands at 35%. Still, the President maintains a solid lead in a head-to-head matchup against former President Trump. When the field expands, potential independent candidates Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Joe Manchin, and Cornel West take more support from potential Biden voters than Trump voters.

The poll also finds:

  • Young Americans appear less likely to vote in 2024 than they did in 2020, which was a record-setting year for youth turnout;
  • A disconnect between young Americans' personal financial situation and their views of the American economy;
  • Widespread support for labor unions;
  • Access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is an essential factor for most young Americans in choosing where to live; and 
  • Most young people do not feel their high school experience adequately prepared them to vote.

Since 2000, the Harvard Public Opinion Project has provided the most comprehensive look at young Americans' political opinions and voting trends. The Fall 2023 Harvard Youth Poll surveyed 2,098 young Americans between 18- and 29-years-old and was conducted between October 23 and November 6, 2023.  

"From a lack of trust in leaders on a variety of critical issues such as climate change, gun violence, and the war in the Middle East, to worries about the economy and AI, young people's concerns come through loud and clear in our new poll," said IOP Director Setti Warren. "As the 2024 campaign season kicks into high gear, candidates up and down the ballot would be wise to embrace the opportunity to listen to — and re-engage — this generation."

"The bad news is that fewer young people intend to vote in this election compared to the Biden-Trump election of 2020. The good news is there's still time, and we know what Gen Z and young millennials want to see and hear. They want evidence that democracy works, that government can address our challenges, and that there's a meaningful difference between the two parties," said IOP Polling Director John Della Volpe.

"One year out from the 2024 election, our poll makes it clear that the youth vote cannot be taken for granted," said Ethan Jasny '25, student chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project. "Young Americans are deeply passionate about issues ranging from abortion to labor rights, but they often struggle to see that passion represented in Washington. For turnout in 2024 to match the record numbers we saw in 2020, candidates must ensure that the values and energy of young Americans are reflected in their campaigns."

The top ten findings are below.

Key Takeaways

Fewer young Americans plan on voting in 2024; most of the decline comes from young Republican and independent voters. 

  • Relative to this point in the 2020 presidential election cycle, the number of young Americans between 18- and- 29 years old who “definitely” plan on voting for president has decreased from 57% to 49%. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2020 turnout for Americans under 30 was 54.1%, with other estimates at 52.5%.
  • Overall, 35% of young Americans affiliate with the Democratic party, 26% with the Republican party, and a plurality (38%) say they are independent or unaffiliated with a major party. Compared to Fall 2019, most of the drop-off in voting intention comes from Republican and independent-minded youth.
    • Democrats (Fall 2019: 68% “definitely vote,” Fall 2023: 66%) 
    • Republicans (Fall 2019: 66%, Fall 2023: 56%) 
    • Independent/Unaffiliated (Fall 2019: 41%, Fall 2023: 31%)
  • While college graduates still plan to vote in robust numbers (Fall 2019: 72%, Fall 2023: 69%), college students (Fall 2019: 68%, Fall 2023: 55%)  and young people who are not in college and do not have a degree (Fall 2019: 48%, Fall 2023: 40%) are less committed to voting than in the recent past.
  • Across demographic groups, the decline in voting intention is most pronounced among younger Black Americans (Fall 2019: 50%, Fall 2023: 38%) and Hispanic Americans (Fall 2019: 56%, Fall 2023: 40%). The decline among young Whites is also notable, falling five percentage points, from 62% to 57%.
  • Women (Fall 2019: 56%, Fall 2023: 47%) indicate they are less likely to vote than men (Fall 2019: 59%, Fall 2023: 52%) in 2024, and the younger cohort (18-24; Fall 2019: 56%, Fall 2023: 46%) is less likely than the older (25-29; Fall 2019: 59%, Fall 2023: 55%) cohort of young voters. 


    poll results

President Biden has a solid lead against former President Trump in a hypothetical 2024 matchup; independent candidates pose a more significant threat to Biden.

  • In a hypothetical head-to-head match-up, young adults under 30 favor President Biden over former President Trump by 11 points, 41% to 30%; 13% indicate they are undecided, and an additional 15% say they would not vote.
    • Most young adults (69%) who favor President Biden over former President Trump say their vote is more in “opposition to Donald Trump becoming president again” than “support for President Biden and his policies.” In contrast, the inverse holds among Trump supporters, with 65% saying their vote is driven by loyalty to the former president and his policies and 35% in opposition to President Biden’s re-election.
  • Among young people who report being registered to vote, President Biden’s lead extends to 15 points (Biden 48%, Trump 33%, Don’t know 9%, Would not vote 10%).
  • Among the most likely voters at this point in the 2024 cycle (the 49% who say they will definitely vote), President Biden leads by 24 points, 57% to 33%. In 2020, exit polls reported President Biden winning the youth vote, 60% to 36%.
  • Biden’s advantage over Trump narrows substantially when potential independent candidates Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Joe Manchin, and Cornel West are introduced.

    • Among all young Americans, Biden leads by four points in a hypothetical matchup with three independent candidates: Biden 29%, Trump 25%, Kennedy 10%, West 3%, Manchin 2%, Don’t know 31%
    • Among registered voters under 30, Biden leads by eight points: Biden 34%, Trump 26%, Kennedy 11%, West 3%, Manchin 2%, Don’t know 24%.
    • Among likely voters, Biden’s lead is 16 points: Biden 43%, Trump 27%, Kennedy 10%, West 3%, Manchin 2%, Don’t know 15%.


  • As seen in these tables (all young adults, registered voters, and likely voters), the independent candidates take more from Biden’s share of the two-way vote than Trump’s. 

    poll results
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A plurality trusts neither Biden nor Trump on important issues like the Israel-Hamas war, Ukraine, climate change, gun violence, health care, crime and public safety.

  • Asked which candidate, Joe Biden or Donald Trump, they trusted more to handle 13 critical issues, young Americans trusted Joe Biden three times and Donald Trump four times – and on six occasions, more young people said they trusted neither of them.
  • Issues where Joe Biden enjoys a head-to-head advantage over Donald Trump (i.e., neither option not included) are:
    • Climate change (+19), abortion (+16), education (+14), protecting democracy (+12), health care (+10), gun violence (+9), and Ukraine (+4).
  • Donald Trump’s advantages over Joe Biden are on:
    • Economy (+15), national security and defense (+9), Israel-Hamas war (+5), strengthening the working class (+4), crime and public safety (+3), and immigration (+2).
  • On the Israel-Hamas war, 46% of Democrats trust Biden, 9% Trump -- and 45% say neither. More than half (56%) of independent voters also say neither candidate is trusted in this area. Two-thirds (66%) of Republicans trust Trump, 8% Biden, with 25% saying neither candidate.
  • President Biden’s job approval is 35% overall (-1 from Spring 2023). Vice President Harris’s job approval is a similar 36%. Approval of Democrats in Congress is 40%, while 27% approve of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their job.  

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Young Americans have a favorable view of their personal financial situation. At the same time, a substantial majority hold a negative perception of America's economy.

  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of young Americans say their finances are either very (13%) or fairly (52%) good these days, with 9% responding they are very bad, and another 24% saying they are fairly bad.
    • Fall 2021: 17% very good, 54% good, 22% fairly bad, 6% very bad
    • Fall 2019: 13% very good, 56% good, 23% fairly bad, 7% very bad
  • When young Americans assess their personal financial situation, there is no partisan divide between Democrats (70% good, 29% bad) and Republicans (70% good, 29% bad). However, when the subject changes to the national economy, opinions diverge: Democrats: 41% good, 58% bad (-17); Republicans 21% good, 79% bad (-68).
  • Proving there is a disconnect between personal and public views on this issue, a substantial majority (70%) also say that America’s economy is very (22%) or fairly bad (48%). Most young people, across the subgroups analyzed hold unfavorable views about America’s economy. 

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Young Americans view most labor unions favorably; views of police unions are mixed.

  • A majority of all young Americans report favorable views of unions for health care (59% favorable) and manufacturing workers (55% favorable), as well as for teachers (58% favorable). About half of all young Americans hold favorable views of automotive (49% favorable) and Starbucks (45% favorable) unions. Only 34% of young Americans have favorable views of police unions, while 27% hold unfavorable views; a plurality (37%) answered “don’t know” or did not share an opinion.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans hold more favorable than unfavorable views of the unions included in the survey, except for police and Starbucks workers unions.
    • Democrats are divided on police unions (33% favorable, 32% unfavorable, 33% don’t know), while Republicans are supportive (41% favorable, 21% unfavorable, 37% don’t know).
    • Two-thirds of Democrats support Starbucks workers’ unions (66% favorable, 10% unfavorable, 22% don’t know), while less than a quarter of Republicans feel the same (23% favorable, 36% unfavorable, 40% don’t know).

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Young Americans are wary about the effects Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation could have on their career prospects.

  • A plurality (34%) of young Americans believe that advances in AI and automation will be harmful to their career prospects. Nearly a quarter (24%) believe these advances will be helpful; 15% think they will have no effect, and 26% are unsure.
  • Youth with a college degree narrowly believe AI will be more helpful than harmful (net helpful +2) to their future career prospects, but most other groups are pessimistic.
    • College students (-6); those not in school and without a degree (-17);
    • Urban residents (+4); suburban (-12); rural (-25); small town (-17);
    • Democrats (-7); Republicans (-14); independents (-11).

      poll results

Support for abortion has increased over the last decade; pro-choice supporters are more likely than pro-life advocates to vote on abortion ballot measures.

  • Compared to 2016, the last time we asked this question of young Americans, we found an eight percentage point increase (36% to 44%) in the number of young Americans who believe “abortion should be permitted in all cases.” Most of this change came from young women; in 2016, 35% supported this policy, while today, 48% say the same.
    • Additionally, 13% believe abortion “should be permitted but subject to greater restrictions than it is now,” 23% think it should be “permitted only in cases such as rape, incest, or to save the woman's life,” 8% “only to save the woman's life,” and 11% believe it “should not be permitted at all.”
  • When asked whether they consider themselves to be “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” we found that 53% chose pro-choice and 26% pro-life. Ten percent (10%) cited neither, and 10% chose the don’t know option. Eighty-one percent (81%) of female Democrats, 58% of female independents, and a quarter (25%) of female Republicans chose the pro-choice label.
  • Nearly half (45%) of all young Americans – including 56% of registered voters – say they will “definitely” vote if there was a referendum or ballot initiative related to the legality of abortion in their state. Sixty-four percent (64%) of young people who consider themselves pro-choice, but only 34% who consider themselves pro-life say they would definitely vote in this hypothetical.
    • Nearly a quarter (22%) of young Americans who are not committed to voting for president in 2024 say they will definitely vote in a state abortion referendum; 10% who say they will definitely not vote in the presidential contest say the same.  

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Nearly two-thirds of young Americans report that legal access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is important when choosing where to live. 

  • Sixty-nine percent (69%) of young women under 30 and 55% of young men say that access to reproductive health care is important when choosing in which state to live. Most (53%) women say such access is “very important.”
  • A majority of young women across most subgroups believe this is important, except for Republicans.
    • 68% of 18-24 and 72% of 25-29 year-old women say this is important;
    • 69% of female college students, 80% of female college graduates, and 65% of females not in college and without a college degree say this is important;
    • 69% of white, 65% of Black, and 71% of Hispanic women say this is important;
    • 90% of Democrats, 41% of Republicans, and 67% of independent and unaffiliated women say it is important.  
  • Overall, nearly half (46%) of young Americans have a friend or family member who has had an abortion (31%) or seriously considered one (15%). Thirty-five percent (35%) of young women under 30 have a friend or family member who has had an abortion, with no significant difference based on level of education, race, or ethnicity. 

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Active high school civic education is linked to a higher propensity for voting.

  • Two-thirds (67%) of young Americans who plan to “definitely vote” in the 2024 general election say that their high school education taught and prepared them to understand the “importance of my vote,” compared to 47% of less committed voters who say the same.
  • We found a similar pattern with voter registration: 63% of those who are registered say they were taught the importance of their vote, compared to 42% of those not currently registered who say the same.
  • Overall, most young Americans do not believe that their high school education taught and prepared them to understand practical aspects of voting and civic education, such as:
    • The importance of my vote (56% yes, prepared)
    • How to register to vote (45% yes, prepared)
    • When the voting deadlines are (38% yes, prepared)
    • How to research candidates and ballot issues (35% yes, prepared)
    • How to request and submit completed ballots (33% yes, prepared)

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Deadline reminders, non-partisan voting guides, how-to-vote training, and conversations with friends and family are all helpful turnout tactics for 2024.   

  • While 49% of young people under 30 plan on voting for president next year, the other half are divided among those who will probably vote (17%), say there’s a 50-50 chance (14%), probably won’t vote (9%), or definitely won’t vote (11%). Among those who say there’s a chance they will vote but are not fully committed yet, a majority find the following tactics and strategies helpful:
    • Reminders about voting deadlines (67%)
    • Conversations about voting with friends and family members (64% helpful)
    • A non-partisan voting guide (63% helpful)
    • A non-partisan how-to-vote training (57% helpful)
    • Meeting a candidate or official representative of the campaign in person (53% helpful)
  • We found that non-partisan voting guides are slightly more likely to be effective with less committed voters on college campuses (66%) and recent graduates (76%) than young people not in college and without a degree (59%). Solid majorities across party lines also find this tactic helpful, with Democrats the most enthusiastic. More than three-in-four Democrats (78%), 62% of Republicans, and 56% of independent young people not yet committed to voting report these guides would be helpful to them in boosting their participation.  

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The Harvard Youth Poll of 2,098 18-to-29-year-olds was organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP) and supervised by John Della Volpe, Director of Polling at the Institute of Politics. Data were collected 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=1,089), while the sample to be calibrated was provided by non-probability, opt-in web panel sample sources (n=1,009). Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish between October 23 and November 6, 2023. The target population for this survey is US residents between the ages of 18 and 29. Data are weighted to reflect population estimates based on age-group, race, Hispanic ethnicity, educational attainment, household income, urbanicity, and geographic region of residence.  The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 2.86%.