Young adults aged 18 to 29, also known as the millennial generation, have an increased distrust in every political institution except the military, according to a biannual Institute of Politics report released Tuesday. Written and analyzed by students, the report also showed an increased polarization among party lines since the election and split opinions about gun regulation.
C. M. Trey Grayson ’94, director of the Institute of Politics, said he was particularly alarmed by the long-term implications of the poll’s results, explaining that the support of the millennials is key to the future stability of modern American institutions like the media, local and federal governments, and Wall Street.
“You hope the process can work, the system can work, politics can work,” Grayson said. “We’ve got to give millennials a reason to trust these institutions.”
Fifty-three percent of respondents said they were concerned with the moral direction of the country, and 47 percent said they felt that the political system is no longer capable of overcoming the challenges the nation faces.
“That’s disappointing, especially because we know that people’s political attitudes are often greatly impacted at the beginning of their adulthood, when they enter the political process,” Grayson said about the report’s overall findings.
Results also indicated that nearly half of millennials do not believe their votes will make a real difference, and over half believe their interests are not shared by elected officials.
Harvard Public Opinion Project generated the poll’s questions, analyzed the resulting data, and wrote up the report.
According to HPOP student chair Eva A. Guidarini ’15, a recent election would typically result in a higher feeling of participation and support among the voting coalition. Yet the results of the report only show millennials feeling isolated and frustrated, she said.
“Young people, they’re not really influencing Obama’s policies in office,” Guidarini said, explaining the lack of post-election optimism. “They just helped him get there.”
Guidarini noted that the millennial demographic is often associated with issues they actually care about the least, including foreign policy and climate change. Instead, the report found that millennials care most about creating jobs, lowering unemployment rates, and improving the education system.
“Millennials and young people, they get talked about as a breakout group only concerned with their own issues,” said Colin J. F. Diersing ’16, a member of HPOP. “They’re also normal human beings who want jobs and to make money.”
Grayson explained that institutional failures have largely been responsible for Washington’s neglect of the demographic’s concerns.
“Millennials have been hit hard,” Grayson said. “The job market is tight, and so the unemployment rate is higher, as well as the underemployment rate.”
Grayson explained that a lack of bipartisanship has been a major cause of legislative breakdown, and that this divisiveness could permanently shape millenials’ understanding of politics and the government.
Indeed, results of the report showed increasingly polarized opinions about President Obama’s term thus far. 85 percent of Democrats approve of President Obama’s job, while only 11 percent of young Republicans do. The division of the government was even reflected in the social lives of the Millennials. Only 12 percent said that their most recent significant other did not share their political beliefs, while 72 percent reported that all or most of their friends do.