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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Young Americans still turning out to vote, despite disillusionment with system

Going into the midterms, more young voters feel like their votes don't matter and minorities and LGBTQ youth feel under attack in the United States.

(CN) — Voters under 30 have often been the most coveted, influential voting bloc in the country. But new polling shows that while they remain committed to casting a ballot, more fear their ballot won’t amount to much.

The Spring 2022 Harvard Youth Poll, released Monday by the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School, found that 18- to 29-year-olds are positioned to rival their historic turnout during the 2018 midterms going into this election cycle, but more than a third of them think their involvement won’t have any real results.

And their frustrations didn’t stop there. More than 40% also said they don’t believe their vote will make a difference and nearly 60% feel that the American political machine is no longer able to combat the challenges we face. The percentages of young voters reporting these doubts increased by double-digits across the board when compared to four years ago.

The types of voters most itching to cast a ballot has also shifted since the last midterm election. Democrats under 30 say they’re slightly less likely to vote this year, while young Republicans say they’re a little more likely this time around.

Interest among white and Hispanic voters hasn’t changed much in recent years, though a few other key demographics saw some major shifts. Interest among Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans shot up 13 points compared to 2018, but the same share of Black Americans saw their interest in voting fall.

The young electorate still appears to favor the blue camp, however. According to the IOP poll, 40% of Americans under 30 want Democrats to maintain control of Congress while just 28% want to see it flip for the GOP, an advantage for the Democrats that widens even further when asking just likely voters. Nearly a third of them say they’re not sure which party they prefer.

“In the past two election cycles, America’s youngest voters have proven themselves to be a formidable voting bloc with a deep commitment to civic engagement,” Mark Gearan, director of the IOP, said with the release of the poll. “Our new poll shows a pragmatic idealism as they consider the state of our democracy and the concerning challenges they face in their lives. Elected officials from both parties would benefit from listening to young Americans and as we head into the midterm elections.”

President Joe Biden has also not been spared from the ire of younger voters.

Just 41% of young people say they approve of the job Biden is doing as president, down five points from last fall and 18 points from a year ago. Biden’s approval stats are underperforming the numbers enjoyed by former President Barack Obama during his first midterm test in 2010, but still stand above those earned by former President Donald Trump at this stage.

More than a third of young Americans cited “ineffectiveness” as their main reason for disapproving of Biden’s job in office, with many of them following up by saying Biden has not kept his campaign promises. Just 13% of respondents currently believe the country is on the right track.

These numbers come as more minorities say they’re feeling constantly under assault in this country. Nearly 60% of Black Americans say they feel under attack “a lot” in America, a feeling shared by around 40% of young Asian and Hispanic Americans. Nearly half of youth who identify as LGBTQ say they’re under regular attack as well.

“Our generation faces a persisting mental health crisis fueled by the current state of American politics, yet despite it all, we remain a generation of empathy and compassion — driven to action by our desire for a better future for all,” Zhang said. “To earn the trust of young people in this moment of crisis, those in power must understand that young Americans, especially our LGBTQ peers, live our lives feeling constantly under threat — and act accordingly.”

Monday’s poll of 2,024 Americans contained a margin of error of plus or minus 2.89%.

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