Young voters disenchanted with politics, but on pace to match 2018 midterms turnout - poll

Rick Rouan

Young voters are on pace to match their 2018 turnout, even as more of them are becoming disenchanted with politics, according to a new poll.

The poll of about 2,000 adults under the age of 30 by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School found that 36% "definitely" will vote in the 2022 midterms, about the same as the 37% at the same point in 2018.

At the same time, though, more young voters said they lack confidence in politics and the value of their vote. More than a third said political involvement rarely yields tangible results, and about two in five respondents said their vote doesn't make a difference.

Both jumped significantly from 2018, when 22% said political involvement produces results and 31% said their vote doesn't make a difference.

"While this is an off-year election; there’s no evidence in this survey that young Americans are off the grid. Their contempt for a system that favors the elite and is overwhelmingly partisan is clear, but at the same time they see a role for government and are unlikely to abandon those most in need," said John Della Volpe, polling director for the Institute of Politics, in a prepared statement. "While the composition of the electorate will likely shift, at this point young people seem as, if not more engaged, than they were in recent midterms."

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While the share of young Democrats who say they definitely will vote is down from 2018, more young Republicans say they will vote in the midterms, according to the poll.

Still, a plurality of young voters told pollsters they prefer Democrats hold their grip on Congress. About 40% of all respondents said they prefer Democratic control, compared with 28% who prefer Republican.

President Joe Biden’s job approval dropped to 41% among young Americans, down from 46% from a survey last fall. Biden's approval among those voters has dropped 18 points in the last year.

A small crowd watches the band Gypsy Temple during a performance by the group urging youth to participate in the November 2018 election at Shoreline Community College Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Shoreline, Wash. The concert was one of dozens the band gave at high schools and community colleges throughout the state in an effort to register young voters and encourage voting in 2018. A new poll found turnout in the 2022 election among young voters is on pace with 2018. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

At this point in the 2018 midterm election cycle, former President Donald Trump's approval among young voters was about 25%.

Congressional Democrats' approval rating among young voters is a tick lower than Biden's, at 40%, compared with 31% for Republicans in Congress. 

Most young voters also told pollsters that they believe Republicans care more about "the elite than serving the interests of people like them." About six in 10 young voters in each party sees the other party as a threat to democracy.

Pollsters also asked young voters about their feelings on gender and sexuality, race, education, mental health and media.

Across demographic groups, young voters feel like they are under attack. Greater proportions of racial minorities believe they are under attack in America than do young white voters. About 45% of LGBTQ youth said people with their sexual orientation are under attack.

About half of Republicans said people who hold their political views were under attack, compared with about a quarter of Democrats in the poll.

On the topic of student loan debt, about 85% favored government action, though only 38% support total debt cancellation.

The survey polled about 2,000 people between the ages of 18 and 29 from March 15-30. Its margin of error was about 2.9%.