Trump protest
Protesters gathered at Trump Tower in New York on November 10. Credit: Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons

Only thirty-two percent of millennials (18-29 year-olds) approved of President Trump’s job performance in the lead up to his 100-day mark, according to a new Harvard IOP poll released on Tuesday. When asked to grade his performance forty-one percent gave him an “F” compared to only ten percent who awarded him an “A.”

Pluralities of millennials believe most of Trump’s major policy goals will make America worse, including repealing and replacing Obamacare, the refugee ban and Muslim ban, and building a southern border wall. There was one Trump policy that 60 percent of millennials thought would made America better: cracking down on countries that engage in illegal or unfair trade practices.

“We found that fifty percent of Democrats actually believe that this makes America better. Thirty-seven percent believe it would have a positive impact on them and their family,” John Della Volpe, Director of Polling at the Institute of Politics, told reporters in a conference call. Skepticism of free trade, particularly the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiated by the Obama administration, was a noticeable area of agreement between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who, according to last spring’s Harvard IOP poll, was the only major party candidate to attract net favorability from millennials.

The survey of 2,654 18-29 year-olds nationwide was conducted between March 10-24. During those two weeks, Trumpcare collapsed in Congress, a federal court in Hawaii blocked Trump’s revised travel ban, the White House released an extremist budget proposal, tensions with North Korea were ratcheting up, and Devin Nunes was—in the most bizarre (and transparent) way possible—attempting to obstruct any serious investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Millennials had a significantly lower approval rating of the president than the national average. The RealClearPolitics poll of polls had Trump’s job approval rating on March 23 at 42.9 percent. This latest Harvard IOP poll also found that trust in major institutions remains low among young people. Trust in Congress (20 percent) remained low compared to five years ago (23 percent). Likewise for the federal government as a whole (24 percent). Trust in the office of the president has sharply declined, from 41 percent in 2012 to 24 percent in 2017. Yet, significantly more young people than in 2012 support government action to curb climate change and reduce poverty.

Erik Fliegauf, a sophomore at Harvard and the student chair of the Harvard Public Opinion Project, told me that young people’s negative attitudes towards public institutions if borne from their experiences. “The distrust of institutions…it’s because we’ve only ever seen, growing up, a Congress that wasn’t willing to compromise or a federal government that wasn’t working properly. So you really can’t blame young Americans for kind of feeling disillusioned with politics if that’s the only thing they’ve seen.”

Joshua Alvarez

Joshua Alvarez is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal. He edits syndicated opinion columns at the Washington Post, and can be reached at