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Millennials Report Little Faith in Justice System, IOP Poll Shows

By Luca F. Schroeder, Crimson Staff Writer

Nearly half of young Americans reported little or no confidence that the criminal justice system treats individuals equally regardless of race or ethnicity, according to new findings of a national poll conducted by the Institute of Politics.

Respondents to the IOP’s biannual poll of more than 3,000 18- to 29-year olds also expressed doubt toward the effectiveness of demonstrations against police brutality, reported as a fresh wave of protests occurred in West Baltimore this week following the death of Freddie Gray.

“Regarding the #BlackLivesMatter protest, a majority of 18- to 29-year olds do not believe that these protests will make a meaningful change or difference,” said IOP polling director John Della Volpe. “Thirty-nine percent of 18- to 29-year-olds think these protests will be effective in making change: among whites, 29 percent; among black americans, it’s 60 percent; among Hispanics, it’s about even at 48 percent.”

Eighty percent of survey respondents thought requiring body cameras for police officers on patrol would be effective.

The poll was administered from March 18 to April 1 in English and Spanish, and broadly examined issues ranging from social media and political engagement to trust in sociopolitical leaders and institutions. As the 27th poll the IOP has conducted since 2000, the results carry a margin of error of 2.4 percent.

The poll also found that 11 percent of respondents had been a victim of sexual assault, but that only 9 percent of sexual assaults experienced by survey respondents happened on a college or university campus. Hispanic women who were victims of sexual assault were more likely than white or black women not to report the incident.

Among other key findings from the poll  is that young Americans lean solidly Democratic for the 2016 presidential race, with 55 percent preferring a Democratic president and 40 percent preferring a Republican one.

The poll found that former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a significant lead among potential candidates in the Democratic field, with 47 percent listing her as their first choice if the primary were to be held today. That figure shadows over the second-place contender, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, with just 11 percent of respondents listing her as their first choice, though Warren has repeatedly stressed that she will not run for the 2016 presidency. Clinton’s figure dwarfs the 1 percent that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who launched his campaign on Thursday, received.

The divided Republican field contrasts sharply, with its front-runners Ben Carson and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul barely edging past the competition at 10 and 8 percent, respectively. Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee are close behind at 7 percent, with Scott Walker, Sarah Palin, and Ted Cruz at 5 percent each.

The findings also highlight a change in how American youth view their country’s role in the world. Twenty-three percent were in favor of preemptive attack if necessary against potentially hostile nations instead of waiting to be attacked, up from 16 percent in 2014; 35 percent thought the U.S. should take the lead in resolving international crises, up from 25 percent in 2014. Sixty-one percent thought the U.S. should let the U.N. take the lead in addressing these global conflicts, down from 74 percent in 2014.

“There’s a desire to show a more forceful American hand overseas,” Volpe said. “What I’m specifically referring to is [that] 57 percent of young Americans support using ground troops to participate in a military campaign against ISIS including a majority of both Democrats as well as Republicans, majority of every age group and every region of the country.”

IOP Director Margaret A. “Maggie” Williams spoke to the importance of conducting a poll on the millennial population.

“We believe it’s important to listen to our young people and be enriched by their thoughtfulness on the issues of the day,” Williams said. “Many are leading now, and our very lives will depend on their leadership and the choices they will make in the future.”

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.

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