Two-thirds of youth fearful about America’s future, prefer Democratic control of Congress, Harvard youth poll finds

  • Trump’s approval rating now 25%, down 12 points among Republicans since spring 2017
  • 68% of black Americans, 46% of Hispanics feel significantly under attack in America
  • 61% of young Americans believe in stricter gun laws

CAMBRIDGE, MA – A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the Kennedy School of Government, finds that two-thirds of young Americans (67%) are more fearful than hopeful about America’s future. Less than one year before the 2018 midterm elections, likely young American voters cite preference for Democratic control of Congress, 65% to 33%.

The Fall 2017 poll, the IOP’s 34th major public opinion poll since 2000, also shows that President Trump’s approval ratings continue to decline, heightened concern about the state of race relations in the country and increased support for stricter gun control laws.

“American political institutions are at a tipping point,” said John Della Volpe, Polling Director at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. “Millennials are now the largest generation in the electorate. This poll and the Virginia election show that they are becoming more motivated — and I believe the fear that exists today about our future will soon be turned into the fuel that will reform our government. The only question is whether this comes from inside or outside the traditional party structure.”

This poll of N=2,037 18- to 29- year olds, which was organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project, was conducted between October 31 and November 10, 2017. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.05 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.


1. 14% of young Americans believe America is generally headed in the right direction; at this moment, fear outpaces hope for our future, 67% to 31%

By nearly a 4:1 margin (54% to 14%), young Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, compared to the right direction. When asked whether they are more hopeful or fearful about America’s future, 67% expressed fear, while 31% expressed hope. Over four in five Democrats (82%) voiced fear compared to 17% expressing hope; in contrast, 58% of Republicans expressed hope while 39% expressed fear.


2. President Trump job approval rating down 7 points to 25% since spring; down 12 points among young Republicans, 8 points among Independents

Just one quarter (25%) of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of the President’s job performance overall, which is a 7-point decrease since the spring release. Two thirds (66%) of young Republicans approve of the President’s job performance, which is a 12-point drop since the spring. The President’s approval rating on specific issues is flat or down across the board; his highest rating on any issue comes from his handling of the economy and his response to the hurricanes with 34% approval on both. Approval of the President’s handling of ISIS is 32%, gun violence 30%, tax reform 29%, health care 26%, North Korea 25%, climate change 24% and race relations 22%.


3. 79% of young Americans concerned about the state of race relations today; 68% of black Americans and 46%of Hispanics believe their race is under attack “a lot” in America, while 15% of whites feel the same way

Nearly four in five (79%) young Americans register concern about the state of race relations in the country today, a five-point increase over the last year. The percent of young Americans across all racial backgrounds who felt that their race was under attack “a lot” also increased by five points (24% to 29%) since last fall. The percent of young whites who felt under attack “a lot” remained stagnant at 15%, while the percent of young blacks who felt under attack “a lot” increased from 62% to 68% and the percent of young Hispanics increased by more than half, from 30% to 46%.



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