Polling reveals young voters’ priorities in the upcoming election

As the election approaches, attention remains focused on young voter engagement. On April 18th, the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics unveiled its Bi-Annual Harvard Youth Poll. From March 14th to 21st, the survey reached 2,010 young individuals aged 18 to 29. The findings shed light on key concerns among young voters, with Harvard’s Institute of Politics Director Setti Warren noting their growing interest in issues like the economy, foreign policy, immigration, and climate. Warren remarked that young people nationwide are increasingly eager to make their voices heard at the ballot box come November.

According to the survey results, President Joe Biden holds an eight-point lead over former President Trump among young voters. Notably, Biden leads by six points among men and thirty-three points among women. This is evidence of what Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, coined as the “gender gap” in the 1980s. The gender gap is the difference in how men and women vote. Smeal initially attributed this gap to the Republican party’s failure to ratify the ERA constitutionally, which remains a strong identifier in election polling and analysis today. The Harvard results show a clear divide, suggesting that young women are leaning further left than men.

Among college students, Biden maintains a 23-point lead over Trump and a 47-point lead among college graduates. Additionally, while a significant portion of young Americans believe that the United States has an immigration crisis, they also believe that immigrants contribute positively to American culture and are against building a border wall. Half of the respondents believe that immigrants actively work to enhance the country’s cultural fabric and 45% disagree with the notion that immigrants lead to increased crime. This perspective underscores a more progressive mindset among young voters, shaping their expectations for candidates in this election.

In 2023, the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. Magazine, in partnership with Lake Research Partners, conducted a survey determining the most motivating issues for voters. The poll found that 74% of all voters support a person’s right to make their own reproductive decisions without government interference. Among these voters who support abortion rights, especially younger women, abortion and women’s rights combined are top issues that will determine their vote in November. 60% of voters identified as feminists, and 7 in 10 voters supported placing the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. Abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment are strong voter turnout issues separately but even more powerful when combined.  

Still, in Harvard’s poll, only nine percent of young people believe the country is heading in the right direction, reflecting a lack of confidence in the current administration. Approval ratings for President Biden and his administration stand at thirty-one percent, a slight dip from Fall 2023. While a majority support student debt relief, Biden’s other economic, foreign policy, and environmental initiatives received lower approval ratings. This dissatisfaction underscores a need for the administration to address concerns among young voters, especially as issues like reproductive justice and rights continue to divide the nation.

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