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Fewer young Americans plan to vote in 2024, Harvard youth poll finds

By Maegan Vazquez Washington Post

Fewer voters under age 30 plan to vote in the upcoming presidential election than did at this point in the 2020 election cycle, and less than one-third of those who identify as independents definitely plan to participate, a newly released Harvard Youth Poll shows.

A potential decline in participation by young voters could hurt President Biden next year in a hypothetical matchup against former president Donald Trump, given Biden draws more support from the demographic. But the poll, released by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School on Tuesday, shows larger declines in planned participation among young Republicans and independents than young Democrats.

Overall, the number of Americans between 18 and 29 years old who “definitely” plan to vote for president decreased from 57% to 49% in a poll at a similar point in the 2020 election cycle.

Among Democrats in that demographic, that figure is now 66% , nearly identical to four years ago. Among Republicans, the figure is 56% , down 10 percentage points. And among independents, the current figure is 31% , also a 10-point drop.

The small percentage of independents who definitively plan to vote is particularly striking because more voters under age 30 identify as independents (38% ) than Democrats (35% ) or Republicans (26% ).

The poll also shows pronounced declines in voting intention compared to the 2020 cycle among younger Blacks, Hispanics and women. The younger cohort of 18- to 24-year-olds is also less likely than participants ages 25-29 to be planning to vote, according to the poll.

Thirty-eight percent of Black voters in the new poll indicate they plan to vote compared to 50% in fall 2019. Forty percent of Hispanics in the new poll indicate they intend to cast a ballot, compared to 56% in fall 2019. And 47% of women polled this fall indicated they intend to vote, compared to 56% in fall 2019.

Young people played a critical role in helping elect Biden to the White House in 2020.

Census survey data showed 53% of 18- to 29-year-olds voted in 2020, up nine points from 2016, which helped to fuel the country’s highest turnout in more than a century. But young voter turnout dropped in 2022 compared with the 2018 midterms, even though Democrats continued to win those who did vote by a wide margin.

Biden maintains a lead in the Harvard youth poll against Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. Adults under 30 favor Biden over Trump by 11 points – 41% compared to 30% .

Notably, nearly 70% of those who favor Biden over Trump say their vote is more in “opposition to Donald Trump becoming president again” than “support for President Biden and his policies.” The opposite holds for those who favor Trump, with 65% saying their vote is driven by loyalty.

Biden’s lead grows with the poll’s most likely voters, with the president leading Trump by 24 percentage points.

When potential independent presidential candidates are included in the polling, Biden’s advantage over Trump narrows.

Among all young Americans, Biden’s lead over Trump shrinks to just four points in a hypothetical matchup also including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Cornel West. Among likely voters, Biden’s lead is 16 points.

Former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who told the Washington Post this week that she is weighing whether to mount her own third-party candidacy for the White House, was not included in the poll.

The poll also shows that a plurality of young voters trust neither Biden and Trump on an array of issues: the Israel-Hamas war, Ukraine, climate change, gun violence, health care, crime and public safety. Biden’s overall job approval is 35% .

The Harvard Youth Poll was conducted between Oct. 23 and Nov. 6, among 2,098 U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 29. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 2.86 percentage points, according to the poll.