Millennials Distrust Justice System, Soften on Democrats

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Youth still favor Democrats, Clinton, but margins tighten

Nearly half of young American voters do not have confidence in the justice system, according to a new Harvard survey of millennials.

The poll of 18-29 year olds released Wednesday by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) found an even 49%-49% split among the age group on the question of the system’s “ability to fairly judge people without bias for race and ethnicity.” The nationwide #BlackLivesMatter movement finds broad support among millennials, but less so among white 18-29 year olds, of whom only 37% support the demonstrations. Less than a majority believe the protests will result in effective change to policing practices.

Millennial voters overwhelmingly support efforts to require police officers to wear body cameras to record interactions with their communities, while 60% support policies to require police departments to demographically reflect the neighborhoods they serve. But the age group is split 49%-49% on whether eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses would make the system fairer.

Despite growing up in an age of two wars, 57% of 18-29 year olds would support deploying ground troops to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). The poll also found a significant bump in favor of American interventionism among the age group, though a majority still believe that the UN and other countries should take the lead in handling international crises.

Young Americans remain a solidly Democratic constituency, but by smaller margins than previous cycles. The poll found that 55% of the age group would prefer a Democrat to win the White House next year, with 40% supporting a Republican for the post. The gap between the parties is significantly smaller than President Barack Obama’s 2012 margin with the same cohort of 60% to 37%.

In the primaries, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds an overwhelming lead with the age group, while millennials are widely split on the Republican side, with Ben Carson leading with 10%, followed by Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Obama’s approval rating among the age group jumped 7 points from October, to his highest approval rating since 2013.

While trust in government institutions has declined since 2010, millennial trust of the military, the Supreme Court, the president, the UN, the federal government, and Congress all increased from 2014 by a significant margin—with the military the only entity with a rating above 50%.

The web-based poll of 3,034 18-29 year olds was conducted by the IOP and KnowledgePanel from March 18 through April 1 and has a margin of error of ±2.4 percentage points.