Harvard Poll: Millennials Get Wise and Start Souring on Obama, Political Parties


There's a new poll out from the Institute of Politics at Harvard. They've been tracking Millennials (18 to 29 year olds) for a while and the latest results show that the kids today are hip to the fact that President Barack Obama isn't what he was cracked up to be.

Since being re-elected last November, Obama's numbers have tanked thus:

A similar trend covers both parties in Congress. Can you believe it? The president and both major parties spend huge amounts of money, rake in record levels of taxes, and younger Americans still can't stand them? These kids just might be all right.

Man, and that's just the beginning of the bad news for the establishment. What is it that Bob Dylan used to sing? Something about the times, they are a-changin'? Indeed, even Millennial views on the president's signature legislative achievement (no, not massively prolonged levels of unemployment—the other one) are pretty sour too.

They don't like or trust Obamacare to make health care cheaper or better, either:

There's little enthusiasm—certainly no growth—for either major party, and (not pictured) about as much enthusiasm for the midterms elections as there is for a bowl of cold spinach soup.

The pollsters at Harvard conclude something that will be familiar to regular Reason readers. The two-party duopoly is as played out among younger Americans as it is among older ones. And with dissatisfaction comes the possibility of change:

Millennials have come of age in an era of openness, whether that's in their online identities or in the way they engage in the public square.  They have been telling us for some time that they have disapproved of the way Washington has been operating and the status quo is not acceptable.  If we listen carefully, they are now beginning to tell us about their economic priorities for the future as well.  Both parties and branches of government are ignoring them at their own peril.

Read the whole poll here.

There's a clear sense that Americans in general are trending libertarian. That is, they generally think the government has too much and is trying to do too many things better left to individuals and businessess. They are increasingly tolerant of a wide array of lifestyles and things such as pot legalization. They want a government that spends less and does less (but does what it does effectively). All of those general impulses are stronger still among younger voters. While there's not a perfect overlap with a libertarian worldview, there's clearly movement in the direction of "Free Minds and Free Markets."

Which is, dare I say it, a great reason to make a tax-deductible donation to Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website, during our annual webathon. Nobody is doing more than us to elucidate the peril of the status quo to younger Americans than Reason (we've even called for "Generational Warfare," for heaven's sake). And nobody is doing more to limn the possibilities of a libertarian world in which individuals and groups are more free than ever to live their lives as a work of art, to innovate, experiment, and build what Robert Nozick called a "utopia of utopias."

So please, give what you can!

Dare I say it? It's for the children!

NEXT: Global Temperature Trend Update - November 2013

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  1. My congressman is great. It’s all those other ones that are a problem.

    1. Congressmen are like assholes: Everyone’s got one, and they all stink — except for mine.

  2. Millennials could have done us and themselves a favor and soured a little earlier. STOP GETTING YOUR INFORMATION FOR JON STEWART, GENERATION Y.

    1. I don’t think Millenials do his research for him.

      1. Yeah I suspect his research methodology is to stick his head between his legs and look up his own ass, then present whatever he finds in there as “fact”. It’s the same methodology that’s used by Chris Matthews.

    2. What? By electing Romney? What would that have accomplished?

      War in Iran is all I can think of.

      1. Shouldn’t you be busy working on Chapter 2 of your book, scumbag?

      2. Yeah. I mean, 0bama shut down Gitmo, avoided war in Libya, didn’t get on the wrong side of a civil war in Egypt, and didn’t triple the federal debt. Great guy.

  3. I’m thinking about registering with a TEAM just so I can vote against some incumbents in the primary elections. Thing is, which TEAM?

    1. Which party has the most incumbents in your district?

      1. My House rep is running against the Republican governor who I actually like, and for Senate I’ve got Republican “Two Term” Susan Collins running for her fourth term. Guess I should sign up as a Republican so I can vote against Collins (and maybe for Rand Paul if he runs for president).

        1. Vote in the primary. Nothing breaks these ass holes’ hearts more than being primaried.

        2. I live in a heavily blue area so I would register as a Dumbocrat so I could vote for Biden.


  5. Nick, I love your optimism, but I can’t go along with it. The reason 18 to 29-year-olds are disappointed in Obama is because he hasn’t forgiven their student loans. For the most part, they want more of the same.

    1. Agreed. With the exception of the Students for Liberty and any similar groups (I’m not even sure if there are any others) I suspect most 18-29 year olds are just pisse that he hasn’t given them enough free shit. The only areas where they overlap with libertarianism is on pot legalization and gay marriage. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so damn cynical, but I can’t help it.

    2. They are disappointed for the right reasons. I think it is more than just not getting free stuff. The problem is they lack the critical thinking skills to learn the right lessons. They rightly think Obama is a bad President. But I am not convinced they understand that the reason he is a bad Preside t is that government is generally a bad way to solve a problem.

    3. Student loans trimmed the deficit by $39 billion last FY, IIRC. Obama has cut the deficit he inherited in half – the biggest reason to vote for him over the GOP.

      And no new wars too.

      1. You mean the deficit he voted for as a senator, doubled down on in 2009 during Stimulus II the Electric Bugaloo? He had the trifecta in 2009-10 and could have turned off the spigot during the first 90 days. Sorry, but running trillion dollar deficits every year of his presidency isn’t exactly fiscal responsibility.

        As for war, he failed to get out of Iraq as promised (eventually he did under Bush’s time table), he fought an undeclared war in Libya, supplied materiel to terrorists in Egypt and would have been fighting in Syria if there hadn’t been so much public backlash led by folks like Rand Paul. Oh yeah, and what on earth are we still doing in Afghanistan?

    4. Yes, insufficient progressivism is a reason a lot of Millenials have soured on the Obama Administration, like the New Left’s schism with the Democratic Party during the LBJ years. Only gayer.

  6. While there’s not a perfect overlap with a libertarian worldview, there’s clearly movement in the direction of “Free Minds and Free Markets.”

    Sure about that? What kind of evidence is there that Millennials are moving in the direction of free markets? Just because they are also dissatisfied with the status quo doesn’t mean they agree with our solutions.

    1. I don’t buy this at all. Not even a little bit. The fact that they want gay marriage and legal pot does not make them libertarians.

      I fear that many supposed libertarians will vanish into statism once they’re thrown the right bone. Just imagine how many supporters we’d lose with legalized drugs?

  7. “They have been telling us for some time that they have disapproved of the way Washington has been operating and the status quo is not acceptable”

    Yes, and they’ve been telling us they want cheap energy, but no drilling; they want free medical care but no taxes; they want prefect income equality except for the person who’s answering; they want to smoke dope but they don’t want anyone allowed to smoke tobacco.
    In short, they’re pissed ’cause NO FREE LUNCH.

    1. That is complete crap, people from all generations are demanding cheap energy, free medical, and legal pot while wanting no drilling, no taxes and no tobacco. It isn’t just Generation Y demanding these things and I personally dont know many people who are.

      You are basically just applying the same partisan talking points to a generation instead of the democrats. I know people like you love these simplifications so it must be nice that you can apply the same one to different groups of people indiscriminately. In short, you are talking out of your ass.

      1. If all generations are demanding A, B, and C, then it’s also true that generation Y is demanding A, B, and C.

      2. What is the topic of the article?

  8. Polls are fucking useless. The only thing that will matter is who is in office after the dust settles after the elections. And I’m going to guess that’ll be about 98% incumbents…like always.

    1. I think there will actually be some turnover, just because Obamacare is such a fucking disaster. Thing is, I don’t think it’s going to matter much changing from venal Democratic shitbags to venal Republican shitbags.

      1. While I’d love to turn out incumbents at a much greater clip (and think we should have federal term limits, recall, etc.), it won’t solve the problem. The problem is that these jokers have too much power in office, with limited accountability. As long as that’s true, the offices will attract the worst and the dumbest.

        1. Exactly. We will always have venal scum who want power over others. The objective should be blocking them at every turn, not voting new venal scum into power in the hopes that they are better venal scum than the last venal scum.

          1. Which is why I’m gene-tailoring a virus that removes venality from those infected.

            1. There’s a C.S. Lewis quote about how that might be a bad idea…

            2. Will it be a venerial venality vector?

    2. There is only one poll that matters. The election.

  9. Not to worry, Obama is getting set to re-frame what he’s doing today with a speech at that bastion of political impartiality the Center for American Progress.

    He’s going to explain how he’s helping all the poor folks move up into the middle class. Of course there will be no mention of how he’s sticking it to people who are already in the middle class are on the paying end of all the wealth redistibuting going on.

    No doubt Obama thinks he can get the millennials to suck up the kool-aid again as his entire life has been all about presentation rather than substance.

    1. President Obama is moving poor people into the middle class by making the middle class less middle.

    2. And tomorrow he’s going on Hardball to get grilled by Chris Matthews. Seriously.

  10. Appreciate the optimism, but it’s completely misplaced. You left out the part of the poll where they say that even though they are disappointed in Obama, they’d still vote for him.

  11. When will we get wise and sour on pictures without alt-text?

    1. …When pols editors stop handing out free shit articles.

  12. SOURING: Innocent fad among young people or dangerous, addictive epidemic? NEWS AT ELEVEN.

  13. Democrats shoved Obamacare down our throats, Republicans were dead set against it. Millennials may be against it, but their approval rate of Democrats is just shy of twice that of Republicans.

    Go figure.

    1. Well like John pointed out, lack of critical thinking skills…

    2. The stench of Bush still wafts fresh in their nostrils.

      1. Palin’s Buttplug|12.4.13 @ 12:08PM|#
        Got it, dipshit.

    3. Republicans are unfashionable. You tell your friends you are a Republican and you just told them you still shop at K-Mart. If you are going around deliberately being all gauche about everything you are not going to get very far.

      1. Gee, war-mongering Bible-beating bigots are not in fashion?

        1. Say what you want about the televangelist generation, but those guys looked sharp doing it. That dippy doo shark fin hair thing going on was the most hep thing going on in the mid to late 80s.

          1. You have a knack for a phrase.

            1. Thanks, I screwed up with the repeat of ‘going on’ though.

        2. Oh, yeah, war mongering, that’s a good one. Democrats are so anti-war they nominated a guy who voted for authorization just a year after we went into Iraq.

          1. And refuses to leave Afghanistan, and who fought an undeclared war in Libya, and tried to fight an undeclared war in Syria – as well as asserting the right as President to invade Syria without so much as a wink and nod from Congress, let alone a declaration of war.

      2. Don’t forget the traktor pullz.

        1. I’m sure if you wait around long enough, hipsters will co-op tractor pulls. Maybe that is why MNG killed himself. After getting all haughty about them, he got an invite to a later day hootenanny featuring ironic tractor pulls, and he realized he was no longer cutting edge.

    4. Bush gave us the PATRIOT Act, NSA wiretapping, the worst attack on our nation despite ours and other intelligence agencies warning him, used faulty intelligence and misrepresented other intelligence to get us into a war with Iraq, Gave wall street a free pass on not being competent by bailing them out, Gave automakers a pass for not being competent and bailing them out, openly said he would AMEND THE CONSTITUTION to ban gay marriage, Medicare Part D, No child left behind which put all children behind, gave us Guantanamo bay, Republicans forced protestors into makeshift prison warehouses in Denver and other large cities, He created the DHS…

      Obama continued down the path that Bush created and added his own failures, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and more recently the monumental failure of the ACA, but its not hard to see why someone would rather vote for Obama over a Republican. Especially when those choices were Mccain/Palin and Romney/Ryan. If someone said I absolutely HAD to vote for a Democrat or a Republican and it came down to a bible thumping moralist who wants to try and shove their ideas down my throat vs. a Bleeding heart liberal doing the same Ill pick the liberal. They are slightly less annoying and aren’t as “in your face” ignorant as the former.

      I know its easy for the GOP to pretend the only issue in the world Is the ACA because its the only way they can look good but its not the only thing on peoples minds.

      1. What’s so amusing about your shit list is how much of it becomes “accomplishment” when their team does it…

        Exhibit A

      2. “a bible thumping moralist who wants to try and shove their ideas down my throat”

        Like Obama? Or Jesse Jackson? Or Al Sharpton?

        Who’s the new Dem troll?

  14. I enjoyed this article until it became a funding drive.


  15. I’m very cynical. I see most of the millennials trying to determine whether the progressive movement will completely overtake the nation – and, if so, whether they will have to actually work for a living. They are looking out for themselves economically and trying to determine if anything can give them an upper hand. If the nation boils down into socialism/communism then they are ok with that as long as all loans are erased and they are not doing shit jobs. A great job (no matter how great) has some shit that needs to be picked up. A bad job is all about picking up the shit. Most of them think that if socialism/communism succeeds that they will get a job closer to great. They have no concept of historical reoccurrence.

    1. That ascribes far too much critical thinking to them. Millennials aren’t even voting their interests as they perceive or understand them; they are emoting.

      I wouldn’t make such a bold assertion if it wasn’t so well-documented in political science.

      1. Anyone who thinks socialism/communism is valid government in a non-utopian world is emoting. But it’s hard for anyone to not think with self interest. Even those who live the life of charity generally want more for themselves just as much as they want for those they desire to help. There are very few Mother Teresas in this world. The few Millennials I’ve talked to (all of which are/have gone to college) feel the nation is in a state of flux – they don’t seem to care philosophically where the nation ends up (though they all lean heavily to the left – which may seem like a contradiction, but is not because they themselves are willing to be manipulated) as long as they are not at the bottom.

        1. I don’t know if it’s just emoting, especially when you get younger. Your typical 18-24-year-old has only known a shitty economy, with friends doing part-time work, and if you listen to them, they’re even getting excited when one of their two $9-an-hour jobs isn’t total shit.

          They’re also starting to say no to college, given the debt involved, and other fun things. Now they got sticker shock from Obamacare.

          I wouldn’t call ’em Libertarian, but they’re not gonna be the Democrat worshipers they once were either.

          (It’s the older Millennials and Gen X women who are completely hopeless and demanding of more free shit, in my experience.)

          1. Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains. — Winston Churchill

        2. “There are very few Mother Teresas in this world. ”

          Read “The Missionary Position”. Even Mother Teresa was no Mother Teresa.

  16. I’m optimistic. When I came of age 30 years ago, true libertarians were probably 1 in 100 in the U.S. I’d guess that’s doubled by now. So if we continue to double every 30 years, we’ll have a libertarian majority by 2150 or so. Success!

  17. I like totes found out that Obama’s half white. So he’s only half othered and I can’t sympathize with him. If Hillary is elected, she will force Hobby Lobby to buy bc pills for their employees and outlaw binders and invisible knapsacks. Equality!

  18. They are increasingly tolerant of a wide array of lifestyles and things such as pot legalization

    Anything else besides gay marriage?

  19. Somehow I doubt Millenials are becoming more libertarian. More likely they’re souring on Obama because he’s not getting them all the free shit he promised.

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