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  • Matin Mirramezani and Cyrus Beschloss

Students say America's standing, race relations have plunged since 2016



The scene: 4 weeks separate us from a political earthquake, and young voters are a darkhorse demographic to swing the election in a way they previously haven’t. Record-breaking student turnout in 2018 teases a potentially historic youth vote.

Some background: Young people often catch flack for “cancelling” others for perceived slights and insensitivity. In this election, young voters seem like they’ll repurpose that reflex to spur voting.

Here’s what we found:

Students are registering and planning to vote like never before, and their efforts extend beyond their vote to engaging peers. Almost 2 in 3 students said they will not be silent if someone they know doesn't vote. This instinct is reflective of the sense of urgency that they feel for the upcoming election.

The youth initiative to get out the vote is fueled by a sense of disappointment with the state of the country. A sentiment that is pronounced even among students identifying as Republicans. Almost 3 in 4 students don’t feel safer than four years ago, including majority of Republican students and 80% of independents. And more than 4 in 5 don’t believe race relations are better, including two-thirds of Republican students, and that America’s standing in the world has improved, including a majority of Republican students.

Over 80% of student don’t believe the United States is handling the top issue for them, climate change, better compared to 4 years ago, including 85% of independent college students.

The dissatisfaction with the status quo is also reflected by the number of students who are willing to protest Trump reelection with 40% of college students saying they will likely or certainly participate in protests.

College Reaction/Axios Poll | n=872 | Oct. 6-7 | m.o.e = 3.3

Key findings

- 76% of students somewhat or strongly disagree that they feel safer compared to four years ago


- 84% of students somewhat or strongly disagree that race relations are better compared to four years ago


- 82% of students somewhat or strongly disagree America is handling climate change better


- 84% of students somewhat or strongly disagree that America’s standing in the world has improved compared to four years ago


- 61% of college students say they will probably or definitely confront their peers who don’t vote.


- 39% of college students say they will likely or definitely protest of Trump wins (compared to only 3% if Biden wins).



Full toplines

1. If someone you know does not vote even though they can, will you address, confront, or otherwise convey disappointment towards them?

· Definitely: 25%

· Probably: 36%

· Probably not: 24%

· Definitely not: 16%

2. Compared to 4 years ago, to what extent do you agree without the following statements

I feel safer

· Strongly agree: 4%

· Somewhat agree: 21%

· Somewhat disagree: 46%

· Strongly disagree: 30%

Race relations are better

· Strongly agree: 2%

· Somewhat agree: 14%

· Somewhat disagree: 32%

· Strongly disagree: 52%

America is handling climate change better

· Strongly agree: 3%

· Somewhat agree: 14%

· Somewhat disagree: 26%

· Strongly disagree: 57%

America’s standing in the world has gotten better

· Strongly agree: 5%

· Somewhat agree: 9%

· Somewhat disagree: 24%

· Strongly disagree: 63%

3. If Trump wins the election in November, how likely are you to protest?

· Absolutely certain: 17%

· Likely: 22%

· Not likely: 31%

· Absolutely will not: 30%

4. If Biden wins the election in November, how likely are you to protest?

· Absolutely certain: 1%

· Likely: 2%

· Not likely: 27%

· Absolutely will not: 70%

Methodology: The poll was conducted from October 6th-7th, from a representative sample of 872 college students with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. College Reaction’s polling is conducted using a demographically representative panel of college students from around the country. The surveys are administered digitally and use college e-mail addresses as an authentication tool to ensure current enrollment in a four-year institution. The target for the general population sample was students currently enrolled in accredited 4-year institutions in the United States.