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Conceived by two Harvard undergraduate students during the winter of 1999, Harvard University’s Institute of Politics Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes toward Politics and Public Service began in 2000 as a national survey of 18-to 24- year old college undergraduates. Over the last 13 years, this re- search project has grown in scope and mission, as this report now includes an analysis of 18- to 29- year olds on a broad set of longitudinal and current events issues.

The first survey of N=800 college undergraduates was completed in the Spring of 2000 and all inter- views were conducted over the telephone; since that time, 21 subsequent surveys have been released. Over this period, a number of modifications have been made to the scope and methodology in order to ensure that sampling methods most accurately capture the view of the population of young adults in a manner that will  be useful to both the Institute of Politics and the broader research and political communities.

  • In 2001, the survey was expanded from N=800 to N=1,200 college students in order to capture a more robust sample of the undergraduate population.
  • In 2006, the survey expanded to N=2,400 interviews, as we began interviewing members of the 18- to 24- year-old cohort who were not currently attending a four-year college or university.  In addition, because of changing uses of technology among younger Americans, in 2006 the survey moved from a telephone poll to a survey that was administered online.
  • In 2009, we expanded our scope a third time to include the population of young adults aged 18 to 29. While we will  continue to report on the attitudes and opinions of U.S. college students, this change in our research subject was made to allow for better and more direct comparisons to the broader set of election and general public opinion research tracking data, which tends to track the 18- to 29-year-old demographic group.  Our Fall political tracking surveys will  include samples of N=2,000, while the Spring semester ’s research will  be more in-depth and include N=3,000 interviews.  All of our interviews are conducted in English and Spanish.  Using GfK (formerly Knowledge Networks) as our research partner, IOP surveys use RDD and Address- Based Sampling (ABS) frames and are administered online (see Appendix).  

The interviewing period for this survey of N=3,058 18- to 29- year olds was March 22 to April 4, 2014. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 1.8 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. During the interviewing period, major media stories included searching for Malaysia Airways flight #MH370, the president’s call to end NSA’s bulk data collection, extension of Obamacare deadline for those who needed it, the turmoil in Ukraine, the first meeting between President Obama and Pope Francis, a GOP forum in Las Vegas with potential presidential candidates, news that Obamacare signups will  exceed 7 million, and SCOTUS striking down aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions.

Harvard IOP Polling Director John Della Volpe supervised the survey group of undergraduates. As always, the IOP survey group would like to thank IOP Director Trey Grayson and Executive Director Catherine McLaughlin for their insight and support over the course of this and all IOP projects.


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