A new poll surveying young Americans’ political attitudes released by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics Tuesday found millennials have less trust in government than ever before.
Harvard’s poll showed millennials, which the pollsters defined as peopled aged 18 to 29, have lost trust in a variety of different major public institutions including the President, the military, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the federal government as a whole. Of all the institutions tracked by the poll, the President and the military lost the most trust among young Americans with a seven point drop. Overall, the pollsters said the level of trust millennials have in “most American institutions tested in our survey” had dropped below even “last year’s historically low numbers.”
This chart created by the pollsters shows the steep declines in their “composite trust index,” which is the level of trust on average in six different public institutions; the President, the U.S. Military, the Supreme Court, the federal government, and the United Nations. The drop is dramatic:
The pollsters also created this chart showing young peoples’ levels of trust in almost every public institution included in the poll dropping. Wall Street and the United Nations were the only institutions where the percentage of people who said they trusted them “to do the right thing” “all or most of the time” stayed flat:
The historically low levels of trust in the White House and the government at large weren’t the only bits of bad news in the poll for President Barack Obama and other Democrats. In general, the poll showed millennials aren’t excited about this year’s midterm elections.
“Currently, less than one-in-four (24%) 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,” the pollsters said. “During a similar time of the year in 2010, 31 percent of 18- to 29- year olds reported that they would definitely vote.”
However, the poll found young conservatives are more likely to vote this year than liberal millennials.
“Currently, there seems to be more enthusiasm for midterm voting among traditional Republican consistencies than Democratic ones,” the pollsters explained. “For example, 44 percent of those who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 say they are ‘definitely voting,’ which is a statistically significant difference compared to the 35 percent of 2012 Obama voters who say the same. Additionally, self-identified conservatives (32%) are 10 points more likely to vote than liberals (22%).”
Additionally, the pollsters noted there are “subtle shifts” with more 18-24 year olds identifying as Republicans. While the poll found Democrats still maintain an advantage among all voters under 30, their edge among the youngest segment of that group is slipping.
“Where younger Millennials once held a 15-point Democrat to Republican margin, we now see this margin shifting to 25- to 29- year olds, while the 18-to 24- year olds margin is shrinking,” said the pollsters.
You can see that shift in party identification below:
While the news about trust in the President, midterm voter turnout, and party affiliation may have been bad for Democrats, the poll did contain one silver lining for them. The pollsters surveyed millennials on their opinions about Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. They found Democratic 2016 frontrunner Clinton is in much more popular with the youth than Christie, who is considered a leading Republican presidential hopeful.
The poll showed Clinton has a favorable rating of 52% among millennials while Christie’s was just 21%. Furthermore, the pollsters found over two thirds (67%) of young voters said their opinion of Clinton had not changed in the past year and only 16% said it has gotten worse. On the other hand, the poll showed 43% of millenials who knew of Christie said their opinion of him had improved in the past year.