WASHINGTON – They voted in near-record numbers in the 2008 presidential election,but a new poll shows American youths have grown increasingly disheartened with politics,lost faith in the government and struggle with personal finances.
A new national poll of 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard's Institute of Politics shows a majority of young adults are worried about their own expenses in addition to the country's economy.
“At no time since our original survey in 2000 has the mood among America's youngest cohort of voters seemed so dour,” the poll concludes.
The millennial generation seems to be overwhelmed by financial obligations. Nearly half said their personal financial situation was very or fairly bad. About 60 percent are concerned with paying their current bills and affording a place to live,while more than half are worried about affording health care.
“There's a majority concern about keeping their heads above water,” said John Della Volpe,the institute's polling director.
The economic anxiety of the generation is especially intense among blacks and Hispanics. The poll shows nearly 70 percent of both groups are concerned with meeting their bills and obligations,compared to 56 percent of whites.
Many current college students are seriously concerned about their ability to finish their education. Nearly half of all four-year college students and nearly two-thirds of all community college students said they worry about staying in school.
“Students are having trouble justifying paying for college when they could be making money at a low-paying job and supporting their family,” said Eric Lu,student survey chair and Harvard sophomore.
The job market looks bleak to current students as well. About 84 percent of four-year college students said it will be difficult to find a job after graduation. Many students,including Lu,are considering graduate school to stretch their time in college and delay entering the workforce.
Unsurprisingly,the economy is the foremost issue of concern for the nation's youth. Nearly half the respondents were most concerned with the economy,while 18 percent picked health care as the most pressing issue. National security,education and the environment were in single digits.
Less than a fourth of millennials believe the nation is headed in the right direction,and more than half the respondents are “concerned about the moral direction of the country.”
President Barack Obama's job approval rating sits at 56 percent,holding steady since the last poll taken in November 2009,but the approval rating for Congress has dropped. Republicans in Congress had a 32 percent approval rate,down three percentage points,and Democrats had a 42 percent approval rate,down six.
A different question found that less than a quarter of young Americans trust Congress “to do the right thing.” The U.S. military ranked highest – 53 percent of poll respondents found the military trustworthy. The Supreme Court and the president are trusted by 45 percent of youth,while traditional media and cable news hold the trust of 17 percent.
The poll also carries a “warning sign for Democrats in Congress” – young Republicans are showing more political enthusiasm and are statistically more likely to show up to voting booths for the midterm elections in November. More than 40 percent of Republicans under 30 said they definitely plan to vote,compared to 35 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Independents.
This is the 17th poll conducted by Harvard's Institute of Politics since 2000. The survey questioned 3,117 youth by telephone,including cell phones,from Jan. 29 to Feb. 22 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. The number of Asians surveyed was too small to report as a separate group.