Forty Percent of Respondents to IOP Youth Poll 'Likely' to Vote in Midterms


Forty percent of respondents to an Institute of Politics poll of 18- to 29- year olds said they are likely to cast a ballot in the midterm elections in one week, and 26 percent said they approve of President Donald Trump’s performance in office.

The IOP released the resuts of its biannual National Youth Poll Monday; it surveyed approximately 2000 individuals nationwide.

At 40 percent, the proportion of likely voters is up 3 percentage points from the IOP’s spring 2018 poll, and is double the recorded turnout of 19.9 percent for 18- to 29-year-olds in the 2014 midterm elections, according to census data.

IOP Director Mark D. Gearan ’78 said he thought taking the pulse of this demographic group “could not be more relevant” ahead of these historic elections, considering both the political stakes in certain battleground state and the potential power of the youth voting bloc.


“This is a generation with creative purpose to address the challenges they see,” Gearan said. “More than ever, young voters have shown they are ready to stand up and be heard.”

Among those surveyed, likely voters preferred Democratic control of Congress by 34 percentage points, 66 to 32 percent — a decrease from the spring 2018 poll, in which Democrats were favored by 41 points, 69 to 28 percent. Landis attributed this decrease to heightened civic engagement among young Republicans.

The percent of respondants who said they approve of Triump's performance is one point higher than in the spring 2018 poll.

Trump received his highest approval ratings for his handling of the economy, which stood at 36 percent — the same rating President Barack Obama received in the IOP’s fall 2014 poll. Among those surveyed who identified as Republicans, 76 percent approved of Trump’s handling of the economy, while only 17 percent of Democrats said the same.

Approval for Trump’s performance regarding relations with North Korea jumped to 33 percent, a six percentage point increase since the spring 2018 poll. Trump’s handling of race relations garnered the lowest approval rating, at just 23 percent.

Looking forward to the 2020 presidential election, 59 percent of young Americans said they would “never” vote for Trump, while 11 percent said they were “sure to” vote for him.

Among those surveyed who identified as Republicans, 37 percent said they are “sure to” vote to reelect Trump.

On Trump’s “handling” of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court — two women accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault and he barely earned enough votes to be confirmed — 26 percent said they approved of his performance. Of those surveyed who identified as Democrats, just 5 percent said they approved. In contrast, 71 percent of those surveyed who identified as Republicans said they approved of the way the nomination was handled.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed support capitalism, and support for socialism has dropped to 31 percent, 3 points lower than in 2016. Half of those surveyed were given definitions of capitalism and socialism; of those who were given definitions, 53 percent said they support capitalism, while only 24 percent said they support socialism.

The poll also asked about issues “connected to the democratic socialist agenda,” including a federal jobs guarantee, a proposal to reduce and eliminate college tuition at public four-year institutions, and single payer healthcare — all three of which received majority support. Other questions about labor policies garnered a plurality.

Only a proposal to create a citizen finance campaign system received more opposition than support, with 24 percent supporting and 33 percent opposing.

John Della Volpe, the IOP polling director, attributed this affinity for democratic socialist policies at least in part to the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, which quickly gained traction among young voters.

Overall, 59 percent of young Americans surveyed said they are “more fearful than hopeful” about the nation’s future.

On Nov. 6, if the Republicans maintain control of the house, 59 percent of likely voters who were surveyed say they will have more fear, while 19 percent say they will have more hope. For 20 percent of respondents, it would not make a difference either way.

Theodore “Teddy” N. Landis ’20, student chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project, said he thought the National Youth Poll is especially pertinent because the demographic that it surveys is typically “under-researched and over-stereotyped.”

“The thing that I have heard repeatedly is that young people are apathetic, and that they don’t vote,” Landis said. “The first part is entirely untrue.”

—Staff writer Simone C. Chu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @simonechu_.