Cambridge, MA – A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics (IOP) finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 28%. Clinton captured 49% of likely young voters’ support while Trump received 21% in a four-way race. Gary Johnson garnered 14% and Jill Stein received 5%, with 11% remaining undecided. Clinton is also polling ahead of President Obama’s 2012 polling numbers among key groups within this demographic.

The IOP’s newest poll results – its 31st major poll release since 2000 – also show that a majority of 18- to 29-year-olds are fearful about the future of America. When asked about the future of the country, 51% of young Americans feel “fearful” and 20% feel “hopeful.” A detailed report on the poll’s findings is available online.

“Young voters are fearful about the future of America, and that is moving them to action. I am hopeful that the next president and leaders in Congress will empower and engage them after the election to move our country forward,” said Harvard Institute of Politics polling director John Della Volpe.

The KnowledgePanel® survey of 2,150 18- to 29-year-old U.S. citizens with a margin of error of +/– 3.11 percentage points (95% confidence level) conducted with the Government and Academic Research team of GfK for the IOP between October 7 and October 17 finds:

Overall, Young Voter Turnout Closely Tracking 2012 Levels. 49% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicate that they will “definitely be voting” in this election, one point higher than the 48% who indicated the same in 2012. Notably, 51% of young females indicate they will definitely vote (up from 45% in 2012), whereas 47% of young males indicate the same (down from 51% in 2012). Compared to 2012, young Hispanics are 8 percentage points more likely to vote (2016: 39%; 2012: 31%), Independents are 7 points more likely (2016: 36%; 2012: 29%), while Republicans are 9 percentage points less likely to vote in the upcoming election (2016: 56%; 2012: 65%).

Clinton Leads Trump Among Likely Young Voters in Four-Way Match Up. When likely voters were asked their preferences in a four-way match up, Clinton received 49% of the vote, compared to Trump’s 21%, Johnson’s 14%, and Stein’s 5%. 11% indicated that they were still undecided. In a two-way match-up between Clinton and Trump, Clinton received 59% to Trump’s 25% among likely voters. Comparing these results to Obama’s position in the Harvard IOP Fall 2012 survey, Clinton is performing better among female voters (+14), white voters (+12), and non-college voters (+10). And when compared to Mitt Romney’s position in the same 2012 poll, Trump is underperforming by 17 percentage points among young Republicans.

Overwhelming Majority of Young People of Color Believe They Are “Under Attack” in US. Nearly nine in ten (85%) young African Americans believe that “people of [their] own racial background are under attack in America”. 72% of Hispanics feel the same, as do 45% of young white Americans. There is little confidence that race relations will improve dramatically under a potential Clinton administration (Improve: 23%; Worsen: 22%; Stay the same: 36%), but there was significant concern it could worsen under a potential Trump administration (Improve: 8%; Worsen: 62%; Stay the same: 12%). 

Majority of Youth are Fearful about the Future of America. When asked whether they are “hopeful” or “fearful” about the future of America, 51% of all 18 to 29 year olds indicated that they are more fearful. Every demographic surveyed felt more fearful, with white women (60%) and white men (54%) exhibiting the most anxiety. These concerns about the future of America are focused on the attainability of the “American Dream.” Less than one-in-three (32%) white females believe they will be better off financially than their parents, and 36% of white males feel the same way. When asked why they were fearful, one young respondent said, “Everything seems out of control, and our politicians care more about themselves than doing the right thing for all Americans. We're extremely divided, and very few seem to have any interest in trying to unite us.”

Favorable View of Clinton Improving, Trump Remains Unchanged. Compared to our last survey release before the national conventions in July 2016, views of Clinton have improved, while views of Trump have stayed largely the same. In our July survey, 31% of 18 to 29 year olds viewed Clinton favorably and 60% unfavorably. In October, her favorable rating increased to 40% while her unfavorable rating decreased to 53%. In comparison, in July, Trump was viewed favorably by 18% of all 18 to 29 year olds, while 78% viewed him unfavorably. Today, these views are essentially unchanged, with 19% rating the Republican nominee favorably and 73% unfavorably.
Among only likely voters, Clinton’s favorability ratio increases to near even (Favorable: 48%; Unfavorable: 51%), and Trump’s is nearly the same (Favorable: 22%; Unfavorable: 76%).

Nearly 40% of Johnson Voters Likely to Vote for another Candidate. Of the 14% of likely voters who support Johnson, 37% say that they are likely to change their minds before Election Day. Only 6% of Clinton supporters and 5% of Trump supporters say the same. Additionally, Clinton supporters show more enthusiasm for their candidate than Trump and Johnson supporters. 72% of Clinton voters say they enthusiastically support her, while 65% of Trump voters and 58% of Johnson voters feel the same way.


The goal of the project was to collect 2,000 completed interviews with young Americans between 18- and 29-years old.  The main sample data collection took place from October 7 through 17. A small pretest was conducted prior to the main survey to examine the accuracy of the data and the length of the interview.

Five thousand, four hundred and five (5,405) KnowledgePanel members were assigned to the study. The cooperation rate was 40 percent, which resulted in 2,150 completed interviews included in this report (after data cleaning). Ninety nine (99) interviews were conducted in Spanish, with the remainder done in English. 

The web-enabled KnowledgePanel® is a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, GfK provides a laptop and ISP connection at no cost. People who already have computers and Internet service are permitted to participate using their own equipment. Panelists then receive unique log-in information for accessing surveys online, and are sent e-mails throughout each month inviting them to participate in research.

More technical information is available at and by request from the IOP.


Mary Cappabianca
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