- Regardless of where they land on the political spectrum, about half of adults ages 18 to 29 report experiencing anxiety, according to an annual poll by The Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard University that found correlations with their frustrations about the state of national politics.
- The share of respondents who intend to vote in next primary election or caucus jumped from 36% before the 2016 election to 43% today, the poll found. However, nine percentage points fewer said they had volunteered for community service or were involved in a government, political or issues-based organization in the last year than did before the 2008 election.
- Specific to higher education, students trust their college administration "to do the right thing" at more than double the rate of other institutions, including Wall Street, the media and the government. Additionally, 42% say landing a job will be easy, a level of confidence that is "as strong as it has been in years," per the report.
Respondents' frustration with government, business and the media did not seem to extend to their view of administrators this year or last year, when 61% of college students said they trusted their college leaders. IOP noted that this perspective has "few partisan differences." (One in four respondents was enrolled in some form of postsecondary education.)
Their growing concern over and interest in national politics is setting up young voters "to play an even more significant role in 2020 than in the 2016 presidential contest," the researchers explain. As such, colleges are looking for ways to both support and manage civic engagement on campus.
Meanwhile, a report out last fall from Campus Labs, a company that tracks student outcomes and other measures, indicated students are increasingly drawn to issues-based organizations rather than traditional political parties. It suggests measuring involvement through voting and party activism alone may not accurately reflect young adults' high level of engagement.
Dozens of institutions have begun initiatives to heighten civic engagement and some have had measurable success, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last year. But advocates caution that attention from such efforts could recede as colleges respond to pressure to provide clearer connections between learning and future careers, as well as speedier paths to credential completion.
Campuses must also balance the desire for greater civic engagement with the potential consequences of having a more politically active campus. Many institutions have developed free speech policies that encourage students to keep an open mind and "be receptive to unpopular ideas," as Colgate University's policy states, while not using such freedom to cause "needless harm."
Among other findings from IOP's poll, more than half of respondents (58%) in this year's survey expressed concern that they or someone close to them would be affected by gun violence. And while more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said they were in very or fairly good financial standing, just 41% think they'll be better off financially than they are currently, and 29% expect to stay about the same.