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IOP Poll Predicts High Youth Turnout in Midterm Elections

The Institute of Politics.
The Institute of Politics. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Alexandra A. Chaidez, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: April 11, 2018 at 1:45 a.m.

Young people in America said they are increasingly dissatisfied with the current Congress and will be “definitely voting” in the upcoming midterm elections, according to the spring 2018 edition of the Institute of Politics’ biannual youth poll released Tuesday.

The survey was organized by a team of undergraduates from the Harvard Public Opinion Project, an Institute of Politics program, and included more than 2000 survey results from 18- to 29-year olds nationwide, according to Theodore "Teddy" N. Landis ’20, the student chair of the project. Some of the survey's key findings include data about young Americans' opinions on President Trump, political parties, and various institutions including, for the first time, technology companies like Google and Facebook.

This is the first release of data from the project. Subsequent installments of the project’s results will be announced within the next three weeks, IOP Director Mark D. Gearan ’78 said.

John Della Volpe, the IOP polling director in charge of the survey, said one of the most significant findings of the survey was the heightened interest in midterm elections.

“This is the most interest we have seen in midterm voting in the history of our poll,” Della Volpe said.

More than 37 percent of young Americans said they “definitely will be voting” in the 2018 elections, a marked increase from the 23 percent of those surveyed in 2010, the most recent year of a “wave” election.

Democrats are leading that charge, according to the survey, with 51 percent of young party members reporting they “definitely will vote” in the elections as compared to the 36 percent of Republicans who say the same.

Approval of congressional Democrats and Republicans remained relatively stable from last fall, with backing of Democrats dropping from 42 to 41 percent and Republicans growing from 23 to 24 percent.

Landis said a lot of the momentum predicted in this poll will be translated into the 2018 midterm elections.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of young people are really angry,” Landis said. “The seas are really choppy out there, and we are not just seeing blue waves. We’re seeing a lot of youth waves as well.”

“We think that is attributable to many young people’s distaste for Trump and his administration,” he added.

President Trump’s rating remained stable at 25 percent approval and 72 percent disapproval from last year’s fall semester poll.

Landis said student involvement in the poll is an important aspect of the process, as the undergraduates participating help to craft the questions sent out by GfK, a research institute which sends out the survey.

“It’s a collaboration between political professionals and undergraduate students,” Landis said. “We, as students, are uniquely able to ask the questions that are important to other people like us.”

Landis said the questions chosen by students “anticipated” many of the events now in the news, including privacy concerns on social media. The New York Times reported last month that Cambridge Analytica, a political data company hired by Trump during the 2016 presidential elections, obtained the private information of more than 50 million Facebook users. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress Tuesday to answer questions about this data privacy and security.

According to the survey, which was conducted before news of Cambridge Analytica broke, roughly 25 percent of young people said they “never” trust Uber, Twitter, or Facebook. Only about 15 percent of young Americans said they “never” trust Amazon or Google.

In a list of institutions polled, college and university administrators sit firmly at the top of the approval ratings, with 61 percent of young Americans saying they trust them “all” or “most of the time.”

According to Della Volpe, the next part of the poll, focused on young people’s attitudes toward the overall state of the country, democracy, and views related to populism, is scheduled to be released later this week.

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