Brighter days are not ahead, according to most young Americans. The fall 2016 Harvard Public Opinion Project poll reveals the extreme state of flux that American young people feel trapped in. According to the survey, 56 percent of young people follow news about national politics closely, and 66 percent of young people are closely following the 2016 presidential race. This information suggests a high level of awareness among young people regarding political and social issues in the country. Given this, the fact that only 14 percent of them felt confident that “things in the nation [were] generally headed in the right direction” is quite informative.
This observation is bolstered by the fact that 53 percent of respondents disapprove of the performance of Democrats in Congress, while an overwhelming 74 percent disapprove of the performance of their Republican counterparts. These respondents represent the next generation of voters, and their general dissatisfaction with both sides of the aisle reflects the aforementioned sense of choosing the lesser of two evils in this election. Both major parties may make plays to attract this disenchanted voter base, but unless one party can firmly convince these voters that it is not only a better option but also a good option, American politics seem to be set for a long state of flux and voter fluctuation.
Looking at young people’s perceptions of social issues, several interesting statistics emerge. Four out of five respondents of respondents are concerned about the state of race relations in the country, and 57 percent believe that people of their own racial background are under attack. Interestingly, since only 43 percent of survey respondents were part of racial minority groups, a significant portion of young white people feel under attack in the country. Perhaps as concerning, 56 percent of respondents to the survey believe that the tone of the current election has harmed race relations in America. A whopping 62 percent of respondents think that Donald Trump’s presidency will worsen race relations, while opinion was more mixed with regard to Hillary Clinton’s effect on race relations.
Perhaps the most telling information from the survey is the fact that 51 percent of respondents are fearful about the future of America. Only one in five claim to be hopeful about the nation’s future; meanwhile, 41 percent believe that they will be better off financially than their parents when they reach their parents’ ages, and 63 percent view their current financial situations in a positive light. Clearly, then, it’s not the future that’s dragging down young people’s considerations of the future. Instead, it is the monumental stakes of the current election that is worrying young Americans. 53 and 73 percent of respondents have unfavorable views of Clinton and Trump, respectively. For every presidential candidate, even Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, at least a third of supporters are not enthusiastic about their support. The next president, regardless of how she or he is viewed by the American people as a whole, has to do an effective job of unifying the country behind common causes and alleviating some of the anger and polarity that has surfaced on both ends of the political spectrum. Failing to do so will likely lead to an increasingly tense political stage—and bleaker polling results from a dissatisfied electorate for the next four years.