Gallup Poll Assesses Views of Young Americans

by Joseph Carroll

Young Americans more likely to support homosexual marriages, Social Security privatization

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Just how different are today's young voters from older voters? A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll examined the attitudes of the youngest voters in the country and finds a mixed picture; 18- to 29-year-olds' attitudes significantly differ from the attitudes of those aged 30 and older in many ways, but also are quite similar in others. Young Americans are more likely than older Americans to describe their views on economic issues as liberal, to identify themselves as independents rather than Republicans or Democrats, and to rate government and the president positively. They also follow news about politics less closely than older people do and are much less enthusiastic about voting. On specific issues facing the country, they are more supportive of homosexual marriages, Social Security privatization, and the maintenance of different cultures in the country. Despite more liberal views on some moral issues, younger Americans and older Americans have similar views on abortion.

Ideology on Social and Economic Issues

The poll, conducted Oct. 24-27, finds few differences between younger and older Americans' self-defined ideological stances on social issues, but some interesting differences on economic issues.

Young Americans are slightly less likely than older Americans to say their views on social issues are conservative, with 32% of 18- to 29-year-olds saying they are conservative on these issues, and 39% of those 30 and older saying so. And while scenes of campus activism lead one to believe that young Americans are decidedly liberal in their views on social issues, that is not the case. Just 27% of those 18 to 29 say they are liberal, quite similar to the 23% of those aged 30 and older who self-define themselves as socially liberal.

However, young Americans are considerably more likely to say they are economically liberal than Americans aged 30 and older are, with 24% of young Americans saying so and only 12% of older Americans saying the same. Older respondents are more conservative on their views about economic issues than are younger respondents (45% to 32%, respectively).

Ideological Views on Social and Economic Issues
(18- to 29-year-olds Versus Those Aged 30 and Older)

Very conservative
or conservative

 

Moderate


Very liberal or
liberal

%

%

%

Social Issues

18- to 29-year-olds

32

39

27

30 years and older

39

35

23

Difference

-7

+4

+4

Economic Issues

18- to 29-year-olds

32

42

24

30 years and older

45

40

12

Difference

-13

+2

+12

Political Affiliation

Americans aged 18 to 29 are somewhat less likely than older adults to affiliate themselves with either the Republican or Democratic parties. Nearly half (45%) of young adults say they are politically independent, with the remainder more likely to identify themselves as Republicans (30%) than as Democrats (24%). By comparison, only 38% of the older adults say they are independents, while 34% identify themselves as Republicans and 27% say they are Democrats.

Some experts believe that an affiliation with one of the political parties grows over time the more people vote and become familiar with the political process. That younger voters are still developing their political orientations gives the young voter segment particular importance to politicians who try to influence that process and thus create lifelong partisans. The downside of the youth vote, on the other hand, is the fact that in the short term, young people are much less likely to vote than those who are older.

Party Affiliation
(18- to 29-year-olds Versus Those Aged 30 and Older)

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

18- to 29-year-olds

30

45

24

30 years and older

34

38

27

Difference

-4

+7

-3

Political Interest and Voting Behavior

The poll also shows a lack of interest in politics among young adults and, as noted, a low frequency of voting.

  • Only 13% of young people pay very close attention to news about national politics, compared with 31% of older people.
  • Also, 39% of young Americans say they "always vote," compared with 59% of older people.
  • Young Americans are also less enthusiastic about voting in next year's presidential election (39% are extremely or very enthusiastic) than are older Americans (52%).

Views of Government

Despite lower participation in the political process -- voting at relatively low rates and not following politics very closely -- young Americans actually express considerably more trust in the government than do older Americans.

Among the younger group, half trust the "government in Washington to do what is right" -- 6% "just about always," and 44% "most of the time." Only 36% of older Americans trust government that much -- 4% just about always, and 32% most of the time.

Trust in Government
How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right -- just about always, most of the time, or only some of the time?
Oct. 24-27, 2003

Likewise, young Americans are more likely to approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president -- 62% (at the time of this poll), compared with 53% of older people.

Presidential Job Approval
Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?
Oct. 24-27, 2003

Similar differences are observed in other Gallup data on trust in government, and in ratings of Congress and the Supreme Court.

National Issues

Younger and older Americans express somewhat different views about a variety of issues facing the nation.

  • Young Americans are substantially more likely than older Americans to support marriages between homosexual couples -- 53% vs. 32%, respectively. This greater acceptance of gay and lesbian rights among young Americans has been a consistent finding in Gallup Polls for a number of years.
  • By a margin of 82% to 58%, young Americans are much more inclined than older Americans to support a proposal that would allow people to put a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts that would be invested in private stocks and bonds. (Other Gallup research shows that only 39% of those aged 18 to 29 think that they will ever receive a Social Security benefit when they retire.)
  • Young people are inclined to say racial and ethnic groups should maintain their own cultures rather than blend into American culture (54% maintain, 38% blend in), whereas older Americans are more likely to say these groups should blend in (50% blend in, 37% maintain).

There is little difference in the views of older and younger Americans on abortion. Twenty-six percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say all abortions should be legal, 52% say abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, and 22% say all abortions should be illegal. Similarly, among older people, 26% say all abortions should be legal, 57% say only certain circumstances warrant the legality of abortion, and 16% say all abortions should be illegal.

Also, there is virtually no difference by age in Americans' self-identification with the "pro-choice" and "pro-life" abortion labels. Young Americans divide 49% vs. 46% in favor of the pro-choice label. Among older Americans, the split is 49% pro-choice vs. 44% pro-life.

Despite these similarities, younger Americans are slightly more likely to oppose the procedure known as "late term" or "partial-birth" abortion -- 77% favor a ban on this procedure, compared with 68% of older Americans who favor such a ban.

The Vote

There are no dramatic differences in the projected vote of young Americans in next year's presidential election compared with older Americans. Given a choice between voting for Bush or the Democratic candidate, 49% of registered voters in the 18- to 29-year-old age group would be more likely to vote for Bush and 39% would be more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate. Among people aged 30 and older, 47% would vote for Bush and 43% would vote for the Democrat.

There also is no clear-cut favorite for their party's nomination among young Democrats and Democratic leaners. The poll shows that, among Democrats aged 18 to 29, four contenders are essentially even in the race for the Democratic nomination. Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark is supported by 17% of young Democrats, followed closely by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (at 14%), Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (at 13%), and the Rev. Al Sharpton (at 12%). Dean, Clark, Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt, Lieberman, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry earn at least 10% of the support among Democrats aged 30 and older.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with 421 national adults aged 18 to 29, conducted Oct. 24-27, 2003. For results based on the total sample of 18- to 29-year-olds, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. These include 192 interviews with 18- to 29-year-olds done as part of random national samples on Oct. 24-27, 2003, and 229 interviews with 18- to 29-year-olds conducted Oct. 24-27 who had previously participated in national Gallup Polls in 2003 and who agreed to be re-contacted by Gallup for future polls. The combined data from these samples are weighted to be demographically representative of the 18- to 29-year-old population in the United States.

Results for the 884 adults aged 30 and older are part of the national Gallup Poll conducted Oct. 24-26, 2003. For this sample, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For the sample of 335 adults, aged 18 to 29, who are registered to vote, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For the sample of 786 adults, 30 years old and older, who are registered to vote, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

62%

35

3

30 years and older

53%

43

4

If George W. Bush runs for re-election in 2004, in general, are you more likely to vote for Bush or for the Democratic Party's candidate for president?

National Adults


Bush

Democratic
candidate

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

46%

40

14

30 years and older

46%

43

11

Registered Voters


Bush

Democratic
candidate

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

49%

39

12

30 years and older

47%

43

10

Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Democratic primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for President in the year 2004. [ROTATED:Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry, Connecticut Senator, Joe Lieberman, North Carolina Senator, John Edwards, Missouri Congressman, Dick Gephardt, Former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Ohio Congressman, Dennis Kucinich, Former Illinois Senator, Carol Moseley Braun, Retired General, Wesley Clark]

Democrats and Democratic leaners

18- to 29-year-olds

30 years and older

%

%

Dean

14

16

Clark

17

15

Gephardt

6

14

Lieberman

13

10

Kerry

5

10

Sharpton

12

5

Edwards

6

5

Braun

5

3

Kucinich

5

2

Other/No opinion

17

20

BASED ON –191—DEMOCRATS/DEMOCRATIC LEANERS AGED 18-29; MoE: ±8 PCT. PTS.

BASED ON –367—DEMOCRATS/DEMOCRATIC LEANERS AGED 30 AND OLDER; MoE: ±6 PCT. PTS.

How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right -- just about always, most of the time, or only some of the time?


Just about
always

 

Most of
the time

Only some
of the time

 

NEVER
(vol.)

 

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

6%

44

48

2

*

30 years and older

4%

32

60

3

1

Overall, how closely do you follow news about national politics -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

Very
closely

Somewhat
closely

Not too
closely

Not at all

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

13%

56

24

7

--

30 years and older

31%

50

16

2

1

How often would you say you vote – always, nearly always, part of the time, or seldom?


Always

Nearly
always

Part of
the time


Seldom

NEVER
(vol.)

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

39%

23

16

15

6

1

30 years and older

59%

23

9

6

3

--

Do you, yourself, plan to vote in the presidential election next November, or not?

Yes

No

No opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

89%

9

2

30 years and older

92%

5

3

How enthusiastic would you say you are about voting for president in next year's election -- extremely enthusiastic, very enthusiastic, somewhat enthusiastic, not too enthusiastic, or not at all enthusiastic?

Extremely


Very

Some-
what

Not
too

Not
at all

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

16

23

43

10

7

1

30 years and older

19

33

30

12

5

1

Thinking about social issues, would you say your views on social issues are – [very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal, (or) very liberal]?

Very con-
servative


Conserv-
ative

 

Mod-
erate

 


Liberal

 

Very
liberal

 

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

5%

27

39

19

8

2

30 years and older

6%

33

35

18

5

3

Thinking about economic issues, would you say your views on economic issues are -- [very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal (or) very liberal]?

Very con-
servative


Conserv-
ative

 

Mod-
erate

 


Liberal

 

Very
liberal

 

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

5%

27

42

20

4

2

30 years and older

6%

39

40

9

3

3

Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?

Legal
under any
circumstances

Legal only
under certain
circumstances


Illegal in all
circumstances


No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

26%

52

22

*

30 years and older

26%

57

16

1

(If certain circumstances)Do you think abortion should be legal in most circumstances or only in a few circumstances?

COMBINED RESPONSES

Legal
under
any

Legal
under most

Legal
only
in a few


Illegal
in all


No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

26%

13

38

22

1

30 years and older

26%

15

40

16

3

With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?

 

Pro-choice

 

Pro-
life

 


MIXED/
NEITHER
(vol.)

DON'T
KNOW
WHAT
TERMS
MEAN
(vol.)

 

No opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

49%

46

1

3

1

30 years and older

49%

44

3

3

1

Now I would like to ask your opinion about a specific abortion procedure known as "late term" abortion or "partial birth" abortion, which is sometimes performed on women during the last few months of pregnancy. Do you think that – [ROTATED: the government should make this procedure illegal, (or do you think that) this procedure should be legal]?

Illegal

Legal

No opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

77%

19

4

30 years and older

68%

25

7

Do you think marriages between homosexuals should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?

Should be
valid

Should not be
recognized

No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

53%

45

2

30 years and older

32%

64

4

Which do you think is better for the United States – [ROTATED: to encourage racial and ethnic minorities to blend into American culture by giving up some important aspects of their own culture, (or) to encourage racial and ethnic minorities to maintain their own culture more strongly, even if that means they do not blend in as well]?


Blend
into


Maintain
own

BOTH
EQUALLY
(vol.)


No
opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

38%

54

5

3

30 years and older

50%

37

6

7

A proposal has been made that would allow people to put a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts that would be invested in private stocks and bonds. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

2003 Oct 24-27

18- to 29-year-olds

82%

15

3

30 years and older

58%

38

4

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/9655/Gallup-Poll-Assesses-Views-Young-Americans.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030