Pandemic Blues to Future Views: How Optimistic Are Young Voters Really And How Do They Describe RFK Jr.

Respondents were also presented with a list of 19 words to describe Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and allowed to select up to three. Besides “old” (30%), young voters most frequently describe RFK Jr. as a “free thinker” (26%), “independent” (26%), and “out of touch” (21%).

May 29, 2024

As part of a recent survey of young voters, Blueprint asked the 18-30-year-old voters about their perceptions of the pandemic, their level of optimism about their own future and the future of the country, and which words they would use to describe third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The poll also presented young voters with a series of statements that would be considered “woke” in the popular discourse and asked whether they agreed or disagreed with them. 

Young voters broadly think that the COVID-19 pandemic left them worse off and less connected to their community, and they are worried about the government’s response to a future pandemic. Mirroring growing trends in voters’ personal life satisfaction versus satisfaction with the state of the country, a majority of young voters are optimistic about their own future, but a majority also say the United States will be a lot or a bit worse off than it was when they were born. 

Nonetheless, when asked about possible places to live around the world, 38%, a plurality, believe that they would have the highest standard of living in the United States.

The poll tested various statements that their own generation might describe as “woke” or be derided as such in political discourse. Among the statements, the highest share of young voters agree with “The American Dream has not been equally accessible to all” (66% agree) and “Black and African-American people face systemic disadvantages in America” (65% agree). The largest amount of disagreement is with statements such as “Prisons and police as we know them should be abolished” (36% agree) and “China has a better impact on the world than America” (35% agree).

Respondents were also presented with a list of 19 words to describe Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and allowed to select up to three. Besides “old” (30%), young voters most frequently describe RFK Jr. as a “free thinker” (26%), “independent” (26%), and “out of touch” (21%). 

Young Voters Were Happier Before the Pandemic and Now Feel Less Connected to Their Community

51% of young voters say they were happier before the COVID-19 pandemic (defined as March 2020 to the end of 2021), 11% say they were happier during the pandemic, and just 21% say they are happier after the pandemic. 

The result is fairly even across voting groups and demographics but notably is highest among young Latino voters, 64% of whom were happier before the pandemic. The group that is most likely to say they’re happier after the pandemic is young voters in households making $75,000 or more. 31% of those voters are happier after the pandemic, compared to 18% of those in households making under $75,000. 

77% of young voters think the pandemic changed the country for the worse. That includes 75% of Democrats, 73% of independents, and 84% of Republicans. 

Looking back over the last five years, 45% of young voters feel less connected to their community than before. 35% see no change in their connection to their community, and 20% feel more connected. The result is fairly consistent across demographic groups, but 46% of young Black voters say they feel no change in their connection to their community, the highest of all groups tested.

50% of young voters are worried, with 22% very worried, about a potential government response to another pandemic. 60% of Democrats are worried, 44% of independents are worried, and 48% of Republicans are worried. 14% of young voters are confident about a potential government response to another pandemic, and 36% are neutral.

40% of young voters believe political leaders talk about the pandemic too little, including 45% of Democrats and 44% of independents but just 27% of Republicans. 34% believe it is talked about the right amount, and 26% believe it is talked about too little. 

Young Voters Are Optimistic About Their Own Future but Pessimistic About the Future of the Country 

Among voters ages 18-30, 45% think their own life will be either a lot or a bit better than their parents’ overall. That includes 48% of Democrats, 36% of independents, and 52% of Republicans. 21% think their life will be about the same as their parents’ overall, and 23% think their life will be a lot or a bit worse than their parents’ overall

However, just 24% think the United States as a whole will be a lot or a bit better off than it was when they were born. 54% think the United States will be a lot or a bit worse off than it was when they were born—including 48% of Democrats, 59% of independents, and 54% of Republicans. 11% are unsure, and 12% think it will be the same.  

The gap is similar to the “vibecession” trend popularized this year, in which voters are relatively positive about their own financial situation but far more negative when asked to evaluate the financial situation of others or the general economic strength of the country. 

Additionally, 38% of young voters, when asked about possible places to live, believe that they would have the highest standard of living in the United States. 20% believe they would have the highest standard of living in a Scandinavian country, such as Norway, Sweden, or Denmark (27% of Democrats, 23% of independents, and 7% of Republicans), and 16% believe they would have the highest standard of living in a major European country, such as Germany, France, or the United Kingdom. 

“Woke Statements”: Politicians Are Corrupt; the American Dream Is Not Accessible

Respondents were presented with statements about the American political system that are generally negative and may be described as “woke” in contemporary political discourse. The statements with the highest level of agreement are that:

  • “The American Dream has not been equally accessible to all” (66% overall, including 78% of Democrats, 70% of independents, and 43% of Republicans)
  • “Nearly all politicians are corrupt and make money from their political power” (66% overall, including 67% of Democrats, 63% of independents, and 66% of Republicans)
  • “America is in decline” (65% overall, including 68% of Democrats, 63% of independents, and 62% of Republicans)
  • “Black and African-American people face systemic disadvantages in America” (56% overall, including 76% of Democrats, 57% of independents, and 29% of Republicans). 

The statements with the highest level of disagreement are “Russia has a better impact on the world than America” (45% disagree), “Prisons and police as we know them should be abolished” (36% disagree), “China has a better impact on the world than America” (35% disagree), and “Nothing any politician has done has ever helped me” (35% disagree).

Just 42% of young voters agree with the statement, “I am proud to be an American,” and only 33% agree that “America is a force for good in the world.” However, a low share of young voters agree with the statement that “Nothing any politician has done has ever helped me” (35% agree, 30% disagree).

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: “Free thinker,” but Definitely Not a “Populist”

Respondents were also presented with a word association test for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., where they were allowed to pick up to three words. The most selected words overall are “old” (30%), “free thinker” (26%), “independent” (26%), “out of touch” (21%), and “moderate” (17%).

Notably, the least selected words are “populist” (3%), “spoiler” (6%), “environmentalist” (7%), “libertarian” (7%), and “liberal” (9%).

There are unignorable gaps based on party identification that reveal opportunities for Democrats to demystify RFK Jr. to their base. Just 8% of young Republicans describe RFK Jr. as a “conspiracy theorist” compared to 20% of young Democrats and 16% of young independents. Also, Republicans represent the highest share of young voters who describe RFK Jr. in positive or neutral terms such as “free thinker,” “rational,” and “independent.” 

Besides “old,” the most picked word from Democrats is “out of touch” (24%). 

PRESS CONTACTS

Alyssa Cass
alyssa@slingshotstrat.com
347-992-5006

Evan Roth Smith
evan@slingshotstrat.com
646-240-0096

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ABOUT THE POLL

Blueprint surveyed an online sample of 943 voters from the ages of 18-30 from April 27 to April 29. The survey was conducted in English, and its margin of error is ±5.8 percentage points. 

Full toplines can be found here and crosstabs here.