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Young Americans broadly disapprove of President Donald Trump and say they will favor his likely opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in the 2020 presidential election, according to the spring 2020 iteration of the Harvard Institute of Politics Youth Poll.
The biannual Youth Poll conducts national surveys of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 on various current events and issues; it is conducted by undergraduates in the IOP’s Harvard Public Opinion Project under the supervision of IOP Polling Director John Della Volpe. The spring 2020 poll results were released Thursday.
The poll, which surveyed more than 2,500 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, found that Biden leads Trump 51 percent to 28 percent among all of its respondents — and his lead is even wider among respondents who said they are “likely voters.”
Just 32 percent of those surveyed said they approve of Trump’s job performance.
The survey found that Biden’s lead over Trump among surveyed youths is similar to that which U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary earlier this month, would have held in a hypothetical general election matchup.
On a press call Thursday, Della Volpe said that one of the key questions of the poll was “What would the Bernie factor be heading into the general election?”
“We found, actually, that the Bernie factor isn’t really a factor,” he said.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said they will “definitely” vote in the upcoming presidential election. Sixty-nine percent of surveyed Democrats and 64 percent of surveyed Republicans said they will “definitely” vote in November; only 31 percent of surveyed independent and unaffiliated voters said they would turn out.
Just 8 percent of respondents said they believed the government is “working as it should be.”
“We actually found the overall sentiment unsurprising given our personal experiences interacting with our friends and classmates,” Justin Y. Tseng ’22, a member of the Public Opinion Project, said. “I think there’s a general anxiety that government isn’t addressing our problems, such as our worries when it comes to healthcare and debt.”
The coronavirus pandemic and healthcare were rated as the two most important issues among respondents. Forty-five percent of respondents said they are concerned about access to healthcare and mental health services, and 43 percent said they are concerned that someone they know will die from COVID-19.
Concern over healthcare has increased twofold, from 8 percent to 17 percent, since the IOP’s fall 2019 youth poll.
“Our sense is that concern over healthcare has really been there all along, but coronavirus has really laid bare the inequities and problems in access to the healthcare system in such a way that it’s really made it salient to the minds of young voters,” IOP Public Opinion Project Chair K. “Cathy” Sun ’22 said. “I think the ongoing pandemic will really only exacerbate a lot of these problems that young people are already experiencing — particularly more young people of color.”
The Youth Poll also examined the varying degrees to which black and white Americans trust public institutions and found the greatest disparity within trust in the police. The survey found that 28 percent of black respondents said they trusted the police, compared to 59 percent of white respondents. It also found that white respondents were largely more trustful of public institutions to “do the right thing all or most of the time.”
Eighty-five percent of respondents agreed that the government needs to take some measures to alleviate student loan debt. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents expressed concern over the impact of housing costs on their future.
Della Volpe said although young people often expressed fear over matters such as healthcare and family stability at focus groups, he is “hopeful” there will be a large youth turnout in the 2020 election.
“Rather than turning away, I think they’re leaning in toward voting in the general election and giving some voice to those anxieties through the ballot box,” he said. “We saw that in ’18. I’m hopeful we’ll see that in this cycle as well.”
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