Mountain View, CA — The issues that young American voters care about the most are education and the economy, according to a new survey from the online education provider Study.com. The data reflects years of lackluster job growth that have coincided with skyrocketing tuition and student debt costs.
The survey polled 411 young Americans from the so-called "Millennial" generation and found a supermajority (70%) of respondents identifying education and the economy as important issues. Other recent topics that have been in the news, including same-sex marriage and race relations, were identified as priorities by just over half of respondents, at 57% and 52%, respectively. Coming in last were international issues and national security (46%) and drug legalization (41%).
In terms of what specific educational policies young adults supported, 67% expressed a need for more debt reduction for college graduates paying off student loans. Fifty-five percent expressed support for free community college, while 57% said that they wanted to see more investment in K-12 education.
The survey, which was conducted before the first GOP primary debate, also polled respondents on opinions relating to the presidential campaign. Pre-debate, a plurality of respondents said that they supported former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (13%) among the Republican presidential contenders, a clear contrast from GOP primary voters who have consistently put Donald Trump on top in recent polls. In the Study.com survey, Trump came in third at 8%, just behind Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY, also at 8%).
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came in second with 28% of respondents, while Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont came in first, with 33% support. This difference grew significantly when looking at respondents who had voted in either of the last two elections, with Sanders pulling ahead with 43% support to Clinton's 31%.
Young voters' preference for the Democratic Party became clear in a head-to-head matchup of all candidates, in which Sanders came in first with 27%, Clinton trailed narrowly at 26%, and Trump was a distant third at 8%. Also notable are the 41% of respondents who said that they didn't know or didn't like any of the Republican candidates, compared to the 32% of respondents who said the same about the Democrats.
Education could be one among many reasons for the gap in support. Free community college was a proposal endorsed by President Obama in his State of the Union speech this year, and both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have put forth similar plans. In comparison, none of the Republican candidates have followed suit, and the only mention of education in the first GOP debate involved Common Core.
Young voters have historically been known for their apathetic levels of political participation, but their preferences are sure to hold increasing weight as they age. As of this year, Millennials are now the largest generation, outnumbering even the Baby Boomers.
The Study.com survey was conducted between July 30, 2015 and August 1, 2015. The survey was conducted online and polled 411 respondents between the ages of 18 and 35.
To view the survey toplines, please email pressdesk [at] study.com
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