The New Study Democratic Presidential Candidates Should Read to Win Over Young Voters

by Kurt Bardella

A new study released on Monday by the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics provides the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates with a blueprint to engage 18-29-year-olds who are “likely voters” in the next election.

  • The report reveals that “compared to this point in the 2016 presidential cycle, young Americans across the political spectrum are more engaged” with “57% of young Americans under 30” saying they will “definitely vote” in the next election.
  • Interestingly enough, the survey reveals that the issue in which President Donald Trump has the lowest approval rating with young Americans is not gun violence or race relations or impeachment – it’s climate change, where he polls as just 24%.

More on the Study: John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Institute of Politics, told the Washington Post’s Jacqueline Alemany that for those likely to vote in a Democratic primary,“45% of these voters prefer the approach that deals with ‘big, structural policy changes that address the urgency of the problems that we are facing, even if they will not be easy to carry out.’” The top three issues for young voters in this study are: the economy, health care, and climate change.


Why It Matters: The fall campaign season kicked off with the Democratic candidates hyper-focused on the climate crisis. This was due, in large part, to a series of nationally televised climate forums sponsored by CNN, MSNBC and of course, Our Daily Planet. In the run-up to these events, virtually every candidate released a new plan to combat the climate crisis. But by the mid-October Presidential Primary Debate hosted by CNN, there were zero questions devoted to energy or climate issues. The only recent time that the climate issue received the collective attention of the democratic field was at the beginning of the month when President Trump began the formal process to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

To his credit, Senator Bernie Sanders, with the help of AOC, has continued to keep the climate crisis on the front-burner, hosting a number of climate townhalls as he campaigns in Iowa. But overall, the field of candidates haven’t focused on climate with the same intensity they did in September. The new Harvard Institute of Politics report tells us that we are likely to see robust turnout from 18-29-year-old voters and that climate is a high-priority issue for them. It seems to me like a real missed opportunity for the Democratic field to make strong inroads with these younger voters on an issue they are clearly passionate about.

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