The conventional wisdom says that young people in the United States are more progressive than their parents and grandparents — and that is likely still true on many issues. But America’s younger cohorts have a few viewpoints that may take some by surprise.
In a national poll of 18 to 29-year-olds from the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, young people still show a strong degree of support for left-wing policies and positions. Yet they also buck expectations on a wide variety of social and economic issues — everything from education to President Joe Biden.
Here are some unexpected positions that many young Americans currently hold.
Biden’s Underwater Approval Rating
President Joe Biden’s approval rating among young people — as with other demographics in the United States — is abysmally low.
The Harvard poll revealed that only 41% of young people approve of Biden’s work — even though 46% approved of Biden as recently as the fall of 2021. Overall, Biden’s approval rating among young people has plummeted 18% since the spring of 2021 — when it sat at a robust 59%.
While 70% of young Democrats support Biden — still down 5% since the fall — only 11% of Republicans view the commander-in-chief favorably. The largest drop was seen among independent voters, whose approval of Biden is at 33% — a 6% drop from just a few months ago.
Thirty-six percent of young people cite “ineffectiveness” as their reason for disliking Biden, 14% believe he is “not following through on campaign promises,” and 10% say he is “not sharing my values.” Only 13% believe that America is on the right track, while 49% think the opposite.
Meanwhile, 40% of young Democrats and 21% of young Republicans “want to see and hear more from President Biden.” Surprisingly, independents show the lowest desire to hear more from Biden — with only 18% affirming the statement.
What could be driving Biden’s low popularity among young people? While a slim majority approve of Biden’s approach to COVID-19, 46% approve of his handling of the Ukraine crisis, and a mere 34% approve of his economic performance.
Critical Race Theory
Even as young people find themselves with conservatives on parental rights, they still support the teaching of progressive views in government schools.
Half of the respondents were asked about their level of agreement with the statement that they “would vote for a candidate who supports K-12 public schools teaching that racism — intentional or not — is a fixture of American laws and institutions.” The other half were asked if they “would vote for a candidate who supports K-12 public schools teaching critical race theory.”
Even when considering the question’s wording, the results remain the same as the parental rights question — a two-to-one split. On the former question, 46% agree and 22% disagree. On the latter — the question that mentioned Critical Race Theory — it was 44% against 22%.
The partisan divide was more significant with this question as well. On the Critical Race Theory version of the question, 63% of young Democrats agree — alongside 22% of young Republicans and 38% of young independents.
Student Loan Debt
Almost all of the young Americans surveyed agree that something must be done about the student loan crisis. However, their preferred approaches vary dramatically.
A plurality of respondents — 38% — favor outright cancellation of student loans, while 27% agree with the government offering “repayment options without any debt cancellation.” 21% favor “debt cancellation for those with the most need.” Only 13% believe that the government should stick with its current policy.
Overall, 83% of young people likely to vote in the 2022 midterms — as well as 79% of those who are not yet in college and without a degree — support government intervention on student debt. The partisan divide on the matter is noticeable, with 43% of Democrats favoring outright cancellation for all and only 13% of Republicans favoring the same.
Young people also had a surprisingly low view of college education. While 48% agree with the statement that “going to college is worth the time and money,” only 18% strongly agree and 26% disagree. A mere 62% of college students and 61% of college graduates agree that their education was worthwhile.
Parental Control Over Education
Most would associate school choice with conservatives and a dogmatic love for government schools with liberals. In any case, young people broadly want parents running the show on the education of their own children.
Forty-six percent of poll respondents agree with the statement that “parents should have more control over their children’s education than they do now,” while only 23% disagreed — a two-to-one margin.
Young Republicans were far more in support of parents being in control of their child’s education, with 64% agreeing and 14% disagreeing. But a plurality of young Democrats agree as well — with 35% approving the statement and 31% disapproving. Independent and unaffiliated young voters also show a high level of support for parental rights in education, with 44% agreeing and 20% disagreeing.
Poor Mental Health
Sadly, American young people are most united according to education, race, and geography around their poor mental health.
The survey shows that 52% of young Americans reported feeling “down, depressed, or hopeless” for several days or more in the past two weeks. At least 50% of every subgroup of the aforementioned categories indicated some level of symptoms. Young women, however, were more likely than men to report these symptoms — 59% and 44%, respectively. Democrats were more likely to report the symptoms than Republicans — 56% and 41%, respectively.
The young Americans who were most likely to report wanting to hurt themselves or thinking they are “better off dead” were those identifying as “LGBTQ,” with 39% displaying such tendencies. Tied for second place — 35% — were young African-Americans and people in a “bad” financial position.
Overall, 28% of young Americans expressed these negative sentiments — a slight improvement from the same time last year. Accordingly, 72% of Americans — including 76% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans — affirm that “the United States has a mental health crisis.” Only 6% disagreed.
How do young Americans address their feelings of depression or hopelessness? Fifty percent spend time outside, 47% seek the support of family and friends, and 43% participate in sports or exercise. Thirty-eight percent were interested in professional help — followed by 29% interested in meditation, 26% in prescription medication, 18% in church or religion, 18% in alcohol or drugs, and 8% in support from authority figures.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.