New Survey Shows Most Young Adults Have Strong Opinions on Top Campaign Issues, But Many Still Not Planning to Vote – News Release


MENLO PARK, CA Despite holding strong opinions on many of the issues in the upcoming presidential election, less than half of eligible voters under 25 are planning to cast a ballot this November, according to the results of a survey of 18-24 year-olds released today by MTV s “Choose or Lose” and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

At least three out of four 18-24 year-olds say they support tougher gun control, giving patients the right to sue their health plans, funding comprehensive sex education in public schools, expanding health coverage for the uninsured, and expanding hate crimes protections for gays. But only half (50%) of those surveyed say they are registered to vote and less than half (46%) say they are “absolutely” certain they will vote. In contrast, approximately 80% of all adults say they are registered and 64% say they are certain to vote in the November general election. More than 800 young people ages 18-24 were interviewed for the survey, titled Youth, Voting and the 2000 Election.

The survey documents some of the reasons young people may be avoiding greater voter participation. Seven out of ten say politicians are out of touch with the concerns of people their age, and the same percentage believe the results of the election will have no more than a small impact on them personally.

Those who are not certain they will vote cited three top reasons: a lack of information on the candidates, cited by 60%; the belief that they can make more of a difference getting involved in their community than voting (58%); and the sense that “politics is just about money and lying and I don’t want to involve myself in it” (39%). Other possible reasons for lower participation among this age group include their general sense that things are already “going in the right direction” in this country (60%), and the fact that their positions on the issues don’t put them neatly into either the Democratic or Republican camps.

“It’s clear that young people have strong opinions on the issues being debated in this campaign, but many of them don’t see the election as the way to express those opinions or have an impact on public policy,” said Vicky Rideout, Vice President at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “The connection hasn’t been made between voting and what happens on the issues they care most about.”

“Throughout this election campaign, we’ve seen that young adults today feel strongly about the issues they face as part of their daily lives but do not necessarily feel the candidates are effectively addressing their concerns,” said Dave Sirulnick, Executive Vice-President for News and Production at MTV. “Through our first presidential forum of this election, we hope to raise awareness that young voters not only have a powerful voice in the political process as a voting block but that their issues matter to this election.”

MTV s Choose or Lose to air youth forum with Vice President Gore: Youth issues in the election will be discussed at a Town Hall Forum with Vice President Al Gore, which will air on MTV on Tuesday, September 26 at 8:00 pm EST/PST. The Vice President will ask and take questions from 150 college-age young adults. The Forum, co-presented by TIME Magazine, is part of MTV s ongoing Choose or Lose campaign.

The survey revealed a number of strongly held and often surprising opinions on many of the issues in the current campaign. The results make it difficult to categorize these newly eligible voters along traditional ideological lines. For example:

  • They favor tougher gun control (84% support mandatory waiting periods and criminal background checks) but a majority (54%) opposes legalization of marijuana for personal use.
  • Eighty percent support comprehensive sex education in schools, but they are split on abortion rights. Fifty-one percent say government shouldn’t interfere with a woman’s right to choose, while 44% say abortion should be prohibited except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. There was virtually no difference in how young men and young women responded on the abortion issue.
  • When it comes to civil rights, 77% percent favor expanding hate crimes protections for gays and 61% favor providing legal rights to gays and lesbians forming civil unions, but they are closely divided on affirmative action. Fifty percent say affirmative action is still needed to counteract discrimination, as long as there are no rigid quotas, while 44% say affirmative action programs should be phased out because they unfairly discriminate against non-minorities.
  • Seventy-three percent of young adults favor giving parents more options through school vouchers, but more than half (53%) oppose giving workers the option of putting a portion of their Social Security benefits in the stock market.

Young people share all voters priority for education in the upcoming elections, but unlike older voters they are more interested in civil rights. The top five issues cited by 18-24 year-olds as “very important” in determining their vote for president are education (86%), jobs and the economy (79%), crime and violence (74%), health care (68%) and civil rights (67%).

On the topic of how to best spend the surplus, the largest proportion (44%) of 18-24 year-olds want to see it used to provide funds to improve education. Only 13% favor using the surplus to protect Medicare and Social Security and 10% want it used for tax cuts.

On health care, nearly nine out of ten (88%) support efforts to expand health insurance coverage. Fifty-one percent support a limited effort that wouldn’t involve a tax increase, while 37% favor a major effort that would require a tax increase. More than three out of four (76%) favor giving patients the right to sue their health plans. On other health issues, a majority of young people consider it “very important” to provide prescription drug coverage for seniors (64%), make Medicare financially sound (58%), and provide long term health care (56%).

“Despite their youth, this generation clearly cares about issues like health care that we traditionally think of as appealing primarily to older voters,” noted Vicky Rideout of the Kaiser Foundation. “They have enough perspective to see the importance of issues like Medicare, long term care, and prescription drug coverage for seniors.”



Youth, Voting & the 2000 Election reports on the results of a national random sample telephone survey of 813 adults ages 18-24. The questionnaire was designed and analyzed by staff at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, MTV: Music Television and Princeton Survey Research Associates (PSRA), and was conducted by PSRA August 9-27, 2000. The margin of error is plus or minus 4%.


A copy of the full questionnaire and topline data are available online at, at MTV s, or by calling the Foundation’s publication request line at 1-800-656-4533 (ask for #3058).


The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, is an independent national health care philanthropy and not associated with Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries.

MTV s “Choose or Lose 2000” is a multi-dimensional on-and-off air campaign designed to engage and inform young people about their stake in the future of this country by encouraging them to register and vote.




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