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Harvard Youth Poll

March 14-21, 2024

The Details

1. Most young Americans would vote for Biden, but the gap between them is not as dramatic as one would expect.

  • If the presidential election were held today, President Biden would outperform former President Trump among both registered (50% Biden, 37% Trump) and likely young voters under 30 (56% Biden, 37% Trump).

  • When there is no voter screen (i.e., all young adults 18-29), the race narrows to single digits, 45% for President Biden, 37% for former President Trump, with 16 percent undecided.

  • Amongst likely voters (just over half of the sample of 2,000 18–29-year-olds), female non-white college graduates aged between 25-29 are overwhelmingly likely to vote for Biden:

    • Women by far prefer Biden compared to men (Biden’s lead amongst men is 6 points, but among women it’s 33 points)

    • Older youth prefer Biden significantly more than younger youth (Biden’s lead among 18–24-year-olds is 14 points, whereas among 25-29-year-olds it’s 26 points)

    • Non-white voters overwhelming prefer Biden (Biden’s lead among white voters is just 3 points, yet among non-white voters it’s 43 points)

    • Graduates prefer Biden more than college students do (his lead among college students is 23 points, but his lead among graduates is 47 points)

2. Support for a permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war is 5-to-1 in favor; majorities of young Americans sympathize with the Israeli and the Palestinian people.

  • Only 38% of young Americans are following the news about the war very or somewhat closely. Registered voters are following slightly more (45%) and those most likely to vote are following even closer (52%). This is still less than the percentages we’ve seen for the overall public from past polls.

  • Most young Americans (45%) don’t know whether they believe that Israel’s response so far to the October 7 attack by Hamas has been justified. 21% say they think Israel is justified, and 32% believe it isn’t. The number of those who answer “don’t know” might surprise some people, as the impression is that younger Americans are overwhelmingly anti-Israel. With 45% saying they don’t know, and 21% saying they think Israel is justified, this is a clear indication that Israel’s position – while it could be much better – is not as sinister as we are being led to believe.

  • Across most subgroups, more young Americans say the actions of the Israeli government were unjustified than justified. Republicans see Israel's actions as justified (36% justified, 16% not justified), while Democrats (14% justified, 44% not justified) and independents (19% justified, 30% not justified) feel the opposite is true.

  • Young Americans support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza by a five-to-one margin (51% support, 10% oppose). No major subgroup of young voters opposes such action.

    • The demographic most likely to support a ceasefire is a male or female Hispanic college graduate who is a likely voter that self identifies as a Democrat.

    • The demographic most likely to oppose a ceasefire is a male college graduate or has no degree at all, white or black, registered or likely voter, who is a Republican.

  • In terms of sympathies for either side, most young Americans are sympathetic for both sides fairly similarly (52% for the Israelis and 56% for the Palestinians), while far less have sympathy for the governments of either side (29% sympathize with the Israeli government and 32% with the Palestinians government).

  • 17% of young Americans expressed sympathy for Hamas. When Hamas was presented in the survey as an “Islamist militant group”, sympathy dipped to 13%.

3. Only 9% of young Americans say the country is headed in the right direction; economic concerns, along with reproductive freedom, continue to be top of mind for young voters.

  • Nearly three in five (58%) young Americans believe that the country is "off on the wrong track," and only 9% say that things in the nation are "generally headed in the right direction." An additional 32% say they are unsure. In the Spring 2020 wave, 21% responded that the nation was headed in the right direction; in the Spring 2016 wave, 15% said the same.

  • Biden’s approval rate on how he’s handling the Israel-Hamas War is the lowest of all his approval ratings – 18%.

  • Presented with a list of 16 “major issues facing the U.S. today”, and asked to express which they feel most strongly about, the two least important topics for young Americans are the Israel/Palestine issue and student debt. The two issues they care about the most are inflation and healthcare.

4. Nearly half of young Americans are regularly bothered by feelings of depression or hopelessness. Mental health remains challenging for millions of young Americans, but there are early signs that things could be improving.

  • Forty-four (44%) of young Americans report feelings of depression or hopelessness at least several days in the last two weeks. Nearly as many say they had feelings of loneliness (40%), and feeling afraid as if something awful might happen (38%).

  • While the number of young people suffering from depression, anxiety, loneliness, and thoughts of self-harm remains alarmingly high—across the board, the trend since 2021 appears to be heading in the right direction.

Key Takeaways

Views on the Israel-Hamas Conflict: Young Americans overwhelmingly support a permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, with a nuanced view on Israel's response. Republican-leaning individuals tend to support Israel's actions, while Democrats and independents are more critical.

Political Preferences Among Young Americans: Most young Americans lean towards supporting President Biden over former President Trump, but the margin is smaller than expected, influenced by factors like gender, age, race, and education.

Concerns and Sentiments of Young Americans: A significant majority of young Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, prioritizing economic concerns and reproductive freedom. Mental health issues remain prevalent but show slight signs of improvement since 2021.

Official summary of results, not all issues are included in our review


The Spring 2024 Harvard Youth Poll surveyed 2,010 young Americans between 18- and 29 years old nationwide, and was conducted between March 14-21, 2024.

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