Apr 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

America's youth fears for the future

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Young Americans who grew up in an age of mass shootings feel anxious about the future — and nearly half say they've felt unsafe in the last month, according to a new poll from the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.

Why it matters: Those fears are mobilizing young people to vote in near-record numbers, says John Della Volpe, director of polling at the institute.

  • Case in point: The 2022 midterms saw the second-highest turnout among voters under 30 (27%) in at least the last three decades, NPR notes.

"It's a critical voting bloc," Della Volpe says.

  • And it continues to tilt the scales in favor of Democratic candidates — whom young people overwhelmingly support.
  • Young voters' influence "enabled the Democrats to win almost every battleground statewide contest and increase their majority in the U.S. Senate," Brookings Institution analysts write.

By the numbers: A stunning 48% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say they've felt unsafe recently, the Harvard poll found (2,069 people; margin of error: ±2.86 points).

  • 21% say they've felt unsafe at school. And 40% are concerned about being victims of gun violence or a mass shooting.

They're also worried about the state of the economy.

  • 73% believe that homelessness could happen to anyone, and 32% fear they could one day be homeless.
  • That share rises to 43% and 39% when looking at Hispanic and Black youth.

What to watch: The Institute of Politics has tracked striking shifts in young Americans' views on government over the last decade.

  • In 2013, 35% felt that the government should spend money to reduce poverty. Today, 59% do.
  • 29% said the government should act to mitigate climate change — even at the expense of economic growth — in 2013. Today, 50% believe the government should take action.

The bottom line: This is a generation that feels besieged, says Della Volpe. And their fear will likely become more and more relevant in politics.

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