BOSTON (State House News Service) – Following two elections with historic youth turnout, the Harvard Youth Poll is once again predicting a “Gen Z wave” in the upcoming midterms.
“I don’t know if we’re going to see a red wave, I don’t know if we’re going to see a blue wave,” John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, said Thursday. “But what I do know… is that we will see a Gen Z wave.”
The Harvard Youth Poll released its 44th study Thursday morning, a probability-based survey of young Americans aged 18 to 29. Harvard students conduct the national survey, and between Sept. 29 and Oct. 14 this fall surveyed a total of 2,123 total respondents.
This year’s findings show that members of Generation Z continue to turn out to vote at higher rates than Millennials, Gen Xers or Baby Boomers did when they were the same age as those in Gen Z.
The poll reports 40 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds stated that they will “definitely” vote in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, on track to match or potentially exceed the record-breaking 2018 youth turnout in a midterm election.
Harvard Public Opinion Project student chair Alan Zhang said in 2018, young people were galvanized by the Parkland, Florida school shooting and President Donald Trump. In 2020, young voters broke records again, moved by the murder of George Floyd, the COVID-19 pandemic and, again, President Trump.
This year, the Harvard poll shows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a major factor driving young people to the ballot box.
Two in five young Republicans cited inflation as the most important issue driving their midterm vote, while Democrats are moved by abortion, with 20 percent listing it as the most important issue this election cycle, followed by inflation at 19 percent and climate change at 16 percent.
By a nearly two-to-one margin, likely young voters prefer Democratic control of Congress, 57 percent to 31 percent, while 12 percent remain undecided.
In the latest survey, the advantage Democrats held was 5 percentage points higher than Harvard’s last youth poll in the spring.
“In 2018 and now today in 2022, we’re seeing that 30 percent of this generation is solidly Republican,” said Kate Gundersen, a Harvard senior who worked on the poll. “While Republicans aren’t losing young voters, they aren’t gaining them either. On the flip side, the Democrats have solidly entrenched themselves in this generation.”
Though Democratic policies are popular, the poll showed that President Joe Biden is not.
Biden’s job performance rating remained statistically unchanged from the Harvard Youth Poll’s spring survey at 39 percent approval, despite checking off campaign promises this summer from gun control to student debt relief to action on the climate, said Harvard sophomore and researcher Tommy Barone.
Approval rates for Biden’s performance on the economy and inflation were at 31 percent and 25 percent respectively, while approval of his handling of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine were higher at 49 percent and 42 percent. Polling found that Trump has a 29 percent approval rate among young people.
“While presidential approval is complex, our results show that one big piece of the puzzle might be the information bubble that many young Americans increasingly occupy,” Barone said.
Among young Americans who said they follow the news very closely, Biden received a 48 percent approval rate — 20 points higher than those who said they do not follow the news.
“In spite of whatever numbers Biden may be putting up in terms of approval, Biden’s not on the ballot in 2022,” Barone said. “And in fact we see that Democrats have increased vote share among young people who already overwhelmingly supported them.”