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Similar to the way that the unprecedented engagement of young Americans was instrumental to Barack Obama’s electoral successes in 2008 and 2012, enrollment by Millennials is also instrumental to the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature domestic legislative achievement.  And as we head into a vital period for recruiting young people into the Healthcare.gov Marketplace, serious concerns abound:  

  • Currently, a solid majority of young Americans disapprove of the health care reform measure, 
  • By a margin of 5 to 1, they believe costs will increase, and 
  • By a margin of 2 to 1, they believe that quality of care will decrease.  

Among the 22 percent in our survey who report that they have no insurance, less than one-third tell us they are likely to enroll; a plurality however are 50-50 and are therefore open to enrolling under the right circumstances.

The reasons for the current lack of support among Millennials for the Affordable Care Act are many, and few are surprising given the trends that our polling has revealed for the better part of the last four years. Young Americans hold the president, Congress and the federal government in less esteem almost by the day, and the level of engagement they are having in politics are also on the decline.  

Millennials are losing touch with government and its programs because they believe government is losing touch with them.  This is not to say that young Americans are rejecting politics, the role of government and the promise of America more generally, they are sending a message to those in power that for them to re-engage in government and politics, the political process must be open, collaborative and have the opportunity for impact -- and not one that simply perpetuates well-worn single issue agendas.

While the fate of the Affordable Care Act may well be in the hands of technologists, marketers and regulators, America is bracing for another series of debates on economic issues that will define the role and scope of government for the next decade.  And on these issues, whether the conversation is about student debt, tax policy, the role and scope of the State and Defense departments, education or entitlements, the Millennial generation holds views that are defined less by partisanship and more by the quality of the solution. 

A majority of Millennials are seriously concerned about student debt; and they speak largely as one in their support of the “Buffet Rule,” cutting  foreign economic aid, cutting the number of nuclear warheads and preserving both federal K through 12 funding and Social Security benefits for most.

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.

 

Harvard Public Opinion Project

Trey Grayson
Director, Institute of Politics
Catherine McLaughlin 
Executive Director, Institute of Politics
John Della Volpe 
Director of Polling, Insti-tute of Politics
Esten Perez 
Director of Com-munications, Institute of Politics
Student HPOP Chair

Eva Guidarini ’15
Student HPOP Committee 

Marc Bornstein '17
Forrest Brown '15
Kurt Bullard '17
Rahul Dalal,
Michelle Danoff '17
Colin Diersing '16
Frances Ding '17
Kate Donahue '16
Jenny Gao '16
Sarah Graham '17
Lauren Greenwalt '16
Ryan Grossman '15
Melissa Hammer '17
Mariel Klein '17
Steven Lee '16
Andrew Ma '17
Katelyn McEvoy '17
Niyat Mulugheta '16
Meg Panetta '17
John Pulice '15
Allison Rachesky '17
Ellen Robo '16
Dan Rubin '17
Wesley Sagewalker '15
Lauren Volpert '17
Jennifer Walsh '17
Matthew Warshauer '14 (former Student Chair)
Paul Wei '17
Alex Wirth '15

Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) was established in 1966 as a memorial to President Kennedy and aims to inspire undergraduates to consider careers in politics and public service.

The Institute oversees the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, one of the world’s premier arenas for political speech, discussion, and debate, and runs a fellowship program offering a unique opportunity for political practitioners to spend semesters at Harvard and interact with students.

The IOP also offers dozens of paid internships for eight to ten weeks during the summer; a nonpartisan, quarterly journal written and run entirely by undergraduates; and a unique, na-tionwide survey project of young adults’ political views.

Students are offered wide-ranging opportunities, including internships and conferences intended to provide opportunities for interaction with the people who shape politics and public policy. The IOP does not offer formal courses or degree-granting programs; instead, it provides avenues for practical experience and encourages students to examine critically and think creatively about politics and public issues. For more information, including past results of these polls, please visit us online at www.iop.harvard.edu

 

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