Harvard Poll of Youth Vote Shows Democratic Energy for Midterms

(Bloomberg) -- Many more young Americans -- a cohort that disapproves of President Donald Trump by a wide margin -- say they’ll definitely vote in the Nov. 6 midterm elections than have before the last two congressional midterms, a new survey shows.

If the young voters follow through with their intentions, they’re likely to turn out at the highest level in decades, according to the poll released Monday by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

The national survey shows that adults ages 18 to 29, as well as disapproving of Trump, overwhelmingly favor Democratic control of Congress and are more fearful than hopeful about America’s future.

Four in 10 young Americans eligible to cast ballots say they’ll “definitely vote” in elections to determine the makeup of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as state legislatures and other down-ticket contests. That’s higher than at about the same point in 2010 and 2014, the two most recent midterm elections, when 27 percent and 26 percent responded to the Harvard survey that way.

“I’m pretty confident that it will surpass anything we have seen since 1986,” said John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director. “There is a tremendous amount of passion and energy.”

The highest midterm turnout among young Americans in recent history was 21 percent recorded in 1986 and again in 1994, according to U.S. Census data cited by the institute. Overall, midterm elections typically attract about four in 10 eligible voters, with older voters the most likely to show up.

Expectations of a great surge in voting by America’s youth have been dashed in the past. Turnout in presidential election years is always higher, and even former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama -- candidates with strong appeal to younger voters -- were only able to draw just more than half of this age group to vote in their first elections. In years when the White House is in play, seven in 10 senior citizens typically cast ballots.

Billionaire Tom Steyer, a Democrat, is investing tens of millions of dollars this year to try to get out the youth vote. Steyer, a potential 2020 presidential candidate, has also spent heavily on ads calling for Trump’s impeachment.

Uncurbed Enthusiasm

Young, self-identified Democrats are driving much of the increased voting enthusiasm, the Harvard survey found. Some 54 percent said they’ll “definitely” cast ballots, up three percentage points from a similar poll in April. That’s significantly larger than the 43 percent of young Republicans and 24 percent of young independent voters who say the same.

Preference for Democratic control of Congress is strong among the demographic. Among likely voters, the Democratic party is preferred over Republicans, 66 percent to 32 percent. That 34 percentage point gap, though, is smaller than the 41 percentage point difference recorded in Harvard’s April survey.

Among the 18 to 29 age group, only 26 percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president. By comparison, Trump’s overall approval rating among all adults in Gallup’s most recent poll was 44 percent.

Looking ahead to 2020, 59 percent of young Americans say that they will “never vote for him,” when asked about a Trump re-election bid. Even among young Republicans, just 37 percent say they are “sure to” vote for a second Trump term.

Almost six in 10 young Americans, or 59 percent, say they’re more fearful than hopeful about America’s future.

The survey of 2,003 Americans ages 18 to 29 was taken Oct. 3-17. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points on the full sample.

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