Young Americans are distrustful of Washington, D.C., and disillusioned with President Barack Obama, and the electoral consequences for Democrats nationwide could be severe. That’s the implication to be drawn from a comprehensive poll released Tuesday by Harvard University.
Researchers with the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard interviewed 3,058 18- to 29-year-olds regarding their views on politics and social media. The results show young voters swinging away from Democrats since President Obama’s reelection in 2012 – a factor Harvard officials reportedly attributed to youth disillusionment with Obama.
Overall, the survey shows young Americans tend to self-identify as liberal. Thirty-six percent of survey respondents identified as liberal or leaning liberal, while 30 percent said they were moderates and 32 percent said they were conservative or leaned conservative. Similarly, 37 percent said they were Democrats, 25 percent said they were Republicans, and 38 percent said they were independents.
The survey found widespread voter apathy among young Americans. But despite the numbers advantage for liberal Democrats, young Republicans and conservatives were slightly more interested in getting out to vote then their Democratic peers.
The researchers report:
“Despite what seems like growing approval for the president, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress among 18- to 29-year-olds, the percentage of young people who are likely to vote in the midterm elections is shrinking relative to the last time we asked the question five months ago, and also compared to four years ago at this time. Currently, less than one-in-four (23%) young Americans under the age of 30 say that they will ”definitely be voting,” in the upcoming midterm elections for Congress, a sharp decrease of 10 percentage points since the Fall…. Currently, there seems to be more enthusiasm for midterm voting among traditional Republican constituencies than Democratic ones.”
One trend that is perhaps fueling the disenchantment with President Obama and Democrats could be record low trust in government among millennials.
According to the report, just 31 percent of respondents said they trust government, as determined by a composite index that looks at trust in the president, the U.S. military, Congress, the Supreme Court, federal government and the United Nations.
On the non-political side, the survey measured respondents’ social media preferences. Facebook, according to researchers, has grown in popularity since last year, with 84 percent, up from 79 percent, of respondents saying the social media website is their preferred one. All social media platforms – including Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Tumblr – so growth in popularity, but Facebook remains by far the dominant platform.
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