The Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School today released the results of their biannual survey of 18- to 29- year olds showing that young Americans are significantly more likely to vote in the upcoming midterm elections compared to 2010 and 2014. Overall, 40 percent report that they will "definitely vote" in the midterms, with 54 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Independents considered likely voters. As young Republicans have become more engaged, the preference among likely voters for Democrats to control Congress has decreased from a 41-point advantage in the IOP April 2018 poll to a 34-point lead today (66%-32%).

President Trump's job approval among young Americans stands at 26 percent, with no statistical difference between all Americans under 30 and likely voters. Eleven percent (11%) reported that they are "sure to" re-elect the President in 2020 if he is on the ballot, eight percent (8%) indicate that there is "a good chance," nine percent (9%) say that it is "possible," nine percent (9%) say it is "unlikely," and 59 percent say they "will never" vote for him.

The IOP poll, the 36th release in a series dating back to 2000, also indicates strong levels of support among young Americans under 30 for a federal jobs guarantee (56% support, 63% among likely voters), eliminating tuition and fees at public colleges and universities for students from families that make up to $125,000 (56% support, 62% among likely voters), and for Single Payer Health Care (55% support, 67% among likely voters).

“This is a generation with creative purpose to address the challenges they see,” said IOP Director Mark Gearan. “More than ever, young voters have shown they are ready to stand up and be heard. Our students have asked important questions at a historic moment in Americanhistory, and I think their work captures something special ahead of the election. Our candidates and political parties would benefit tremendously from paying close attention to what is now the largest bloc of potential voters in America.”

This poll of N=2,003 18- to 29- year-olds, organized with undergraduate students from the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP) and directed by John Della Volpe, was conducted using GfK’s probability-based online sampling methodology between October 3 and October 17, 2018. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.18 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence Level.

Among the key findings from the survey, include:

1. Forty percent (40%) of 18- to 29-year olds indicate that they are likely to vote on November 6, which is +3 from the Spring 2018 poll. Interest in voting has increased for both Democrats and Republicans since April 2018. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Democrats indicate a high likelihood of voting (+3 since April 2018) while 43 percent of Republicans (+7) say the same. Interest among Independent voters (24%) has not changed since the Spring. Since 1986, based on data collected and analyzed by the U.S. Census, the only times that midterm turnout among young Americans surpassed 20 percent was in 1986 (21%) and 1994 (21%).

2. Among likely voters, Democrats are preferred to control Congress by 34 percentage points, 66 to 32 percent. In the April 2018 release, the Democratic margin was +41 among likely voters, 69 to 28 percent. If all young Americans under 30 voted, the margin would decrease to +18 points (55%-37%).

3. President Trump's approval rating stands at 26 percent among all young Americans (+1 since Spring 2018), and 25 percent among likely voters. Approval of Democrats in Congress is unchanged at 41 percent; Republican approval has increased by one point (not statistically significant) and is now at 25 percent approval.

4. President Trump received the highest marks for the way he has handled the economy, with an approval rating of 36 percent (+2 since the Spring), which is the same rating that young Americans gave President Obama in the Fall 2014 poll. In that poll, 63 percent of Democrats, 10 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Independents approved of President Obama's handling of the economy; today, 17 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Independents say the same about President Trump. President Trump's job performance on North Korea is 33 percent (+6 since the Spring poll), ISIS 32 percent, tax reform 30 percent, gun violence 29 percent, healthcare is 26 percent and immigration 25 percent. The President received his lowest ratings on race relations, which stands at 23 percent (+2 since Spring). In contrast, in Fall 2014 IOP polling, 47 percent approved of the way that President Obama was handling race relations.

5. Slightly more than a quarter (26%) of young Americans approve of President Trump's handling of the Kavanaugh nomination. One-in-twenty (5%) Democrats approve, 71 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Independents. The survey also found that young whites (36%) are significantly more likely to approve than Hispanics (15%) and blacks (6%); men (31%) more likely than women (21%) to approve; rural residents (43%) more likely than urban (21%) residents.

6. Looking ahead to 2020, 11 percent of young Americans tell us they are "sure to" vote to re-elect President Trump, and eight percent (8%) say there is a good chance -- while 59 percent say that they will "never vote for him" and nine percent (9%) percent say that they are unlikely to do so. Among young Republicans, 37 percent say that they are "sure to" to vote to re-elect him; five percent (5%) of Independents and two percent (2%) of Democrats say the same.

7. At 43 percent, nearly the same number of young Americans support capitalism as they did in 2016 (41%) when HPOP first asked the question. Support for socialism today stands at 31 percent, 3-percentage points lower than in 2016 (34%) -- and democratic socialism is supported by 39 percent of young Americans (not asked in 2016). When only likely voters are polled, we find slightly more support for democratic socialism (53%) than capitalism (48%); socialism trails both by a significant margin (39%).

Approximately, one-half of those surveyed received a definition of capitalism, socialism and democratic socialism when asked to indicate support. Among this portion of the sample, support for capitalism increased by 11 points (43% to 54%) compared to those who did not see a definition; support for socialism decreased by 7 ( 31% to 24%), while democratic socialism remained largely the same (39% to 37%). Overall, a plurality (39%) of likely voters indicated that it would make no difference if a candidate for Congress described themselves as a democratic socialist, 25 percent responded that it would make them more likely to support, 33 percent less likely.

8. Beyond labels and definitions of political systems, we polled young Americans on views related to several issues that are connected to the democratic socialist agenda. We found majority support for several, including:

  • A federal jobs guarantee that would provide funding so that every American would be guaranteed a job paying at least $15 an hour and offering paid family/sick leave and health benefits: 56% support, 20% oppose among all 18-29 year-olds (18% don't know); 63% support, 24% oppose among likely voters (10% don't know).
  • Eliminating tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities for students from families that make up to $125,000 per year and making community college tuition-free for all income levels: 56% support, 20% oppose among all 18- 29 year-olds (18% don't know); 62% support, 25% oppose among likely voters (11% don't know).
  • Single Payer Health Care (also referred Medicare for all) where the federal government would cover all the health care expenses of individuals: 55% support, 21% oppose among all 18-29 year-olds (19% don't know); 67% support, 23% oppose among likely voters (8% don't know).

Other policies that received less than a majority, but plurality support are:

  • Requiring U.S. corporations with more than $1 Billion in revenue to allow their workers to elect 40 percent of the membership of their board of directors: 40% support, 16% oppose among all 18-29 year-olds (39% don't know); 53% support, 18% oppose among likely voters (27% don't know).
  • Building a militant and powerful labor movement in the United States rooted in the multi-racial working class: 37% support, 19% oppose among all 18-29 year-olds (39% don't know); 47% support, 23% oppose among likely voters (28% don't know)

Only a proposal to create a citizen-financed campaign system modeled after the "Seattle idea" received more opposition than support:

  • Creating a citizen-financed campaign system, funded by taxpayer revenue, that would give each registered voter $50 to send to their favorite candidate during presidential election years, and lesser amounts in other years. Candidates would volunteer to take part in the program, and if they accepted campaign financing, would not be allowed to accept funds from other sources. 24% support, 33% oppose among all 18-29 year-olds (38% don't know); 35% support, 35% oppose among likely voters (29% don't know).

“Whether I'm on Snapchat, Instagram, or in the dining hall, you can feel the energy ahead of this election,” said Teddy Landis, a junior at Harvard College and student chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project (HPOP). “This feels like a special moment where young people are convinced that voting matters.”

The poll also found that:

9. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of young Americans, and 65 percent of likely voters are more fearful than hopeful about the future of America; and

10. Nearly three-in-five (59%) likely voters say that they will have more fear if the Republicans maintain control of the House after the midterms, with 19 percent saying they will have more hope. Twenty percent (20%) said it would not make a difference, either way.