Young Americans pessimistic about government, democracy

New VICE News/Ipsos poll shows COVID-19, election integrity top of mind for people under 30

The author(s)
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, October 20, 2020 –  According to a new VICE News/Ipsos poll, a vast majority of U.S. citizens ages 18-30 feel America’s democracy is broken and needs to be more representative. Perhaps indicative of this malaise, two-thirds say political parties and politicians don’t care about people like them. Turning a focus to the upcoming presidential election, a majority want Democrat Joe Biden to win next month and feel he is better – by a significant margin – than President Donald Trump on a number of issues. Nonetheless, one in four say neither candidate is trustworthy or capable of bringing the country together. 

Detailed Findings

A significant majority of 18-30-year-olds feel our country’s electoral system is broken. However, the discontent is particularly strong among Democrats.  

  • Three-quarters agree that “we need a more representative government” (74%) and “our democracy is broken” (73%). Nearly half strongly agree that it’s time for a more representative government.
  • Two-thirds (65%) say political parties and politicians don’t care about people like them, and 57% don’t feel represented by any political party.  
  • Though these sentiments are widespread and shared by both Gen Z (age 18-24) and younger millennial (age 25-30) respondents, the seeds of discontent are stronger among Democrats. For example, 86% of Democrats agree that our democracy is broken compared to 54% of Republicans. 

Looking ahead to the election this month, there is a strong sense that Biden is better than Trump on a number of issues. However, there are underlying concerns with both candidates for some young Americans.  

  • Around half of citizens under 30 rate Biden as better on 14 issues and sentiments related to governing, from “cares about people” (55%), to “will help America recover from the COVID-19 pandemic” (52%), to “is best positioned to lead our country right now” (51%). On every single measure, Biden has at least a two-to-one, and sometimes a nearly four-to-one advantage over Trump.  
  • Fifty-three percent of these young Americans want Biden to win the presidential election next month, and a large number (71%) want Election Day to be a national holiday.  
  • However, one in four say neither candidate will bring the country together (25%) or is trustworthy (24%). One in five say neither candidate has integrity, exposing a few vulnerabilities for the major party nominees. 

The top concerns regarding the election are related to votes not counting if sent by mail, voter suppression, and an Electoral College “surprise.”  

  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) are concerned about their votes not counting if sent by mail, including 67% of those very or somewhat likely to vote in next month’s election. This concern is shared by Democrats (70%) and Republicans (67%) alike.  
  • A majority are also concerned about voter suppression (59%), that the Electoral College winner will be different than the popular vote winner (58%), and that a vote to fill the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat will happen before the election (53%).  
  • Though members of both parties share a concern about their mail-in ballot not being counted, other election-related concerns are highly partisan. Democrats are much more concerned about the rush to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, voter suppression, and the Electoral College and popular vote results not aligning, while Republicans are more worried about voter fraud.

Read the article from VICE News here



This VICE News/Ipsos Poll was conducted September 30th – October 8, 2020 using the probabilitybased KnowledgePanel®. This poll was based on a nationally-representative probability sample of U.S. citizens ages 18-30 years old (n=1,043).

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The survey was conducted in English and Spanish. The data was weighted to adjust for gender by age, race, education, Census region by metropolitan status, household income, and language proficiency. The above design weights for KP total respondents were then raked to the following geodemographic distributions of the age 18-30 Citizen population. The needed benchmarks were obtained from the 2020 Current Population Survey (CPS). Moreover, we used the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) to obtain ACS language benchmarks in order to adjust weights for respondents.

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18-21, 22-24, 25-27, 28-30) 
  • Race-Ethnicity (White/Non-Hispanic, Black/Non-Hispanic, Other/Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, 2+ Races/Non-Hispanic)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West)
  • Metropolitan Status (Metro and Non-Metro)
  • Education (Less than High School, High School, Some College, Bachelor or Higher)
  • Household Income (Under $25K, $25K-$49,999, $50K-$74,999, $75K-$99,999, $100K$149,999, $150K and Over)
  • Language Proficiency (English Proficient Hispanic, Bilingual/Spanish Proficient Hispanic, Non-Hispanic)

The margin of sampling error among the total sample of U.S. citizens ages 18-30 years old is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was plus or minus 1.38 percentage points. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

For more information on this news release, please contact: 

Chris Jackson 
Senior Vice President, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 202 420-2025   
[email protected]     

Mallory Newall 
Director, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 202 420-2014   
[email protected]     

Kate Silverstein 
Media Relations Specialist, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 718 755-8829
[email protected] 

About Ipsos   

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.   

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.   

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).    ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP          


The author(s)
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs