IOP Poll Forecasts Higher Youth Voter Turnout in 2020 than in Previous Years


UPDATED: Oct. 26, at 1:20 p.m.

Young Americans are on track to turn out to vote in higher numbers than in the historic 2008 election, according to the Harvard Institute of Politics Youth Poll released Monday.

More young people voted in 2008 than in any election since 1984. This year, 63 percent of surveyed young people said they will “definitely be voting,” which the poll said indicated a similar level of turnout to 2008. Forty-seven percent of respondents said the same in 2016.

The IOP’s Youth Poll conducts biannual surveys of political trends amongst young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29.


Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden holds a 24 point lead in the youth vote over his opponent President Donald J. Trump, per the results. The poll found that Biden’s favorability among young voters increased by 13 percentage points since the spring version of the poll.

Despite the favorable polls, Biden supporters are less confident that their candidate will win the election compared to Trump supporters. While 63 percent of Biden supporters said they believe he will win the presidential election, 74 percent of Trump supporters expect the president to win.

The poll also reflected the increased popularity of mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 50 percent of young Democrats are more likely to vote by mail this election, compared to just under 30 percent of young Republicans.

Still, not all young voters are confident their ballots will be counted. Nearly half of all young Black voters surveyed report they will be voting in person on election day. Meanwhile, seventy percent of young white, non-Hispanic voters indicated they are very confident their ballots would be counted, a marked difference from the 50 percent of young Black voters who said the same.

The poll found a general consensus among young Americans that the government should have an increased role in tackling issues of healthcare, particularly mental health accessibility. Young voters across racial demographics had “overwhelming support” for the government doing more to decrease systemic racism, according to the poll.

The election also comes as young Americans report they are experiencing less joy and more anxiety this fall compared to the spring. The poll noted young Americans are concerned about housing costs and debt, with 57 percent of respondents between 18 and 29 years old carrying debt. Black Americans, college graduates, likely voters, and those who live in urban areas are more likely to hold debt, per the poll’s results.

Young Americans are also evenly split between whether their chances at success are better than their parents’ generation, the same, or worse off.

Kate Gunderson ’23, a student leader of the IOP Youth Poll, spoke at a press call Monday about how young people “do not feel secure” in America during the press conference.

“We see that young people do not feel secure in America. They feel like they do not have opportunities — that this isn't a land of opportunities, but rather, it is a land of inadequacies,” she said. “People are looking for better health care and looking for better mental health services, looking for a better response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

—Staff writer Raquel Coronell Uribe can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @raquelco15.

—Staff writer Sixiao Yu can be reached at