The majority of young Americans think democracy is in big trouble, according to a new poll

December 1, 2021, 6:48 PM UTC

The majority of young Americans believe that democracy in their country is either failing or in trouble according to a Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics poll out Wednesday.

The survey of 18- to 29-year-olds found that just 7% of young people view the U.S. as a “healthy democracy,” and 52% believe that democracy was either “in trouble” or “failing.”  

Democrats were divided, with 44% believing it’s healthy or somewhat functioning, and 45% believing it’s in trouble or failed, according to the survey. But 70% of Republicans and 51% of Independents are sour on it. Young Republicans took the most negative stance on America’s future: Half placed the chances of a second Civil War at 50% or higher.

Still, that poll found that the vast majority of young people, 57%, do believe that it’s very important that the U.S. remains a democracy, according to the Harvard IOP survey.

A similar poll, conducted by CNN earlier this fall, found that 56% of Americans of all ages feel democracy is under attack in this country, and 51% believe it is likely that elected officials in the U.S. will successfully overturn the results of a future election because their party did not win.

“After turning out in record numbers in 2020, young Americans are sounding the alarm. When they look at the America they will soon inherit, they see a democracy and climate in peril—and Washington as more interested in confrontation than compromise,” said IOP polling director John Della Volpe. 

A November report by the European think tank International IDEA reveals what millennials and Gen Z might be so worried about. 

The group labeled the U.S. a “backsliding democracy,” largely because of former President Donald Trump’s baseless questioning of the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

That attack “really raised the alarm bells in a more severe way than before,” said Annika Silva-Leander, the IDEA report’s lead author. 

This is the first time in the report’s history that the U.S. received the backsliding designation.

“The visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as seen in the increasing tendency to contest credible election results, the efforts to suppress participation (in elections), and the runaway polarization is one of the most concerning developments,” said IDEA’s secretary general, Kevin Casas-Zamora.

Between 52% to 55% of voting-eligible young people between the ages of 18 and 29 cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election, up 10 points from 2016, according to the Tufts Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). The total youth share of the vote in the election was about 17%, a substantial bloc.

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