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Opposition To Trump Likely To Motivate Young Voters, Poll Shows

President Trump receives very low marks from young Americans and could be a key factor motivating them to vote this year, according to a new survey from Harvard's Institute of Politics.
President Trump receives very low marks from young Americans and could be a key factor motivating them to vote this year, according to a new survey from Harvard's Institute of Politics.

More than a quarter of the country's 18- to 29-year-olds say that their lives are worse because of President Trump, according to a new poll, the latest to show the motivating impact the president could have on the youngest subset of voters this election year.

The poll, by Harvard's Institute of Politics, found that 29% of that cohort say their lives are worse under President Trump's leadership, 39% say their lives are no different, and 15% say their lives are better.

"People vote when it's personal, when they can see a difference in their lives," said John Della Volpe, polling director at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. "I looked at dozens of subgroups, and when I look at the number of people who say 'better' and the number of people who say 'worse,' in every single case — other than among Republicans — people say that he's made their life worse, and that's a big deal."

The poll also found that young Americans, mobilized in part by strong disapproval of Trump, are slightly more likely to vote in November's general election than they were ahead of the 2016 general election. According to the survey, 54% of voters under 30 said they will definitely vote this year: 69% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans and 31% of independents.

Data from Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. Spring 2020 Harvard Youth Poll conducted March 11-23. Survey included 2,546 Americans age 18-29, with a margin of error of 2.78 percentage points. Data on 2016 turnout is from U.S. Census Bureau.
Data from Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. Spring 2020 Harvard Youth Poll conducted March 11-23. Survey included 2,546 Americans age 18-29, with a margin of error of 2.78 percentage points. Data on 2016 turnout is from U.S. Census Bureau.

It also found former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, with a wide lead over Trump among 18- to 29-year-olds most likely to vote: 60% to 30%.

Voters under 30 have been unreliable in past elections and did not turn out in droves in the 2020 Democratic primary after a significant showing in the 2018 midterm elections. But some say that with Trump on the ballot in November, that may well change.

"This election is going to be a referendum on Donald Trump," Della Volpe said. "Whether you love him or whether you hate him, you can clearly see the difference that Donald Trump is bringing into our politics, into our country today. That, more than anything, is what we're finding is motivating young people."

According to the survey, 61% of young people and 75% of likely young voters say that the outcome of the 2020 general election will make a difference in their lives.

The survey also found that Trump's presidency has spurred young Americans to become politically active, particularly on the left: 43% of young Democrats say they are more politically active as a result of President Trump, compared with 35% of Republicans under 30.

"Donald Trump is doing as much to expand the Democratic Party's base among young people as any Democrat in America," Della Volpe said.

There are also signs of stark racial divisions within this generation.

A full 58% of young Americans say they agree with the statement, "America was built for people like me." But just 47% of young black Americans and 51% of young Hispanics agreed, compared with 64% of their white counterparts.

Harvard Youth Poll conducted March 11-23. Survey included 2,546 Americans age 18-29, with a margin of error of 2.78 percentage points.
Harvard Youth Poll conducted March 11-23. Survey included 2,546 Americans age 18-29, with a margin of error of 2.78 percentage points.

Similarly, when asked whether they agreed with the statement that the "founders of America shared my values," just 34% of blacks and 49% of Hispanics agreed, compared with 60% of whites.

Della Volpe saw a connection between that finding and voting behavior.

"If you don't believe America's built for you, if you don't think the founders then or the institutions today represent you, why would you vote?" he said. "If you don't see yourself reflected in the values and the ideals and the government that is representing you, why would you vote? It's difficult to vote unless you can see a tangible outcome coming from that participation."

Harvard Youth Poll conducted March 11-23. Survey included 2,546 Americans age 18-29, with a margin of error of 2.78 percentage points.
Harvard Youth Poll conducted March 11-23. Survey included 2,546 Americans age 18-29, with a margin of error of 2.78 percentage points.

The survey also measured the degree of trust that Americans have in some public institutions. It found that young white Americans were more likely than their black peers to trust the president, the military, local government and police to do the right thing all or most of the time.

The gap was particularly sharp in the case of police, with 59% of whites signaling trust, compared with 28% of blacks, a 31-point gap.

The poll surveyed 2,546 Americans ages 18 to 29, between March 11 and March 23. The poll has a margin of error of 2.78 percentage points.

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