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Millennials have stopped trusting the government

Florida college students before a 2012 presidential debate.
Florida college students before a 2012 presidential debate.
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Young Americans have lost trust in the presidency during the Obama administration, according to a new survey by Harvard's Institute of Politics. In 2010, 44 percent of 18 to 29 year olds trusted the president to do the right thing all or most of the time. This year, only 32 percent do — the lowest number in recent years.


Last year's survey already showed "historically low" levels of trust in American institutions, polling director John Della Volpe writes. And in 2014 things got even worse, with the presidency, Congress, Supreme Court, military, and federal government more generally reaching new lows.

Young Americans have also lost enthusiasm for politics in general. Only 23 percent of them say they'll definitely vote in the upcoming midterm elections, the survey finds:


Why are they so disillusioned? They're worried about the economy, and they don't think things are going well. When asked an open-ended question about which issues they were most concerned about, 48 percent of young Americans named the economy, or some economic issue.


In particular, though 52 percent of young Americans disapprove of Obama's performance generally, 61 percent don't think he's handling the economy well:


Republicans shouldn't get too excited. Though Congress is generally loathed, young Americans are more favorably disposed toward Congressional Democrats than their Republican counterparts. (Of course, this won't matter much in the midterms if young people don't bother to vote.) But Democrats might be better positioned for 2016, since Hillary Clinton's approval ratings are 52/42 — far better than Chris Christie's dismal 21/39 results.


And while young Americans have become somewhat more disillusioned, they still think presidential politics, at least, is important. Only 16 percent agreed that it doesn't matter who the president is.


The survey polled 3,058 18-29 year olds from March 22 to April 4, 2014. Check out its full results here.