Majority of Millennials Believe Costs Will Rise and Quality of Care Will Fall Under New Health Care Law According to Harvard Poll

Cambridge, MA – A new national poll of America’s 18- to 29- year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, finds a solid majority of Millennials disapprove of the comprehensive health reform package that the president signed into law in 2010, regardless of whether the law is referred to as the “Affordable Care Act” (56%: disapprove) or as “Obamacare” (57%: disapprove). Less than three-in-ten uninsured Millennials say they will definitely or probably enroll in insurance through an exchange if and when they are eligible.

The IOP’s newest poll results – its 24th major release since 2000 – also show a majority (52%) of Millennials would choose to recall all members of Congress if it were possible – and a slightly smaller proportion saying the same about President Obama (47% recall, 46% not recall). The poll also finds President Obama’s job approval rating at the lowest level reported (41%) since the beginning of his presidency. A detailed report on the poll’s findings is available online:

“A critical factor in the election and reelection of Barack Obama, America’s 18- to 29- year-olds now rate the President’s job performance closer to that of Congress – and at the lowest level since he took office in 2009,” said Harvard Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson. “Overcoming today’s bitter partisanship and governmental gridlock is essential to showing Millennials and all our citizens that Washington, D.C. – and our democratic process – can still work and make a difference.”

“The reasons for the current lack of support among Millennials for the Affordable Care Act are many, and few are surprising given the trends that our polling has revealed for the better part of the last four years,” said Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe. “Young Americans hold the president, Congress and the federal government in less esteem almost by the day, and the levels of engagement they are having in politics are also on the decline.”

The KnowledgePanel® survey of 2,089 18- to 29- year-old U.S. citizens with a margin of error of +/– 2.1 percentage points (95% confidence level) conducted with the Government and Academic Research team of GfK for the IOP between October 30 to November 11 finds:
Most Millennials Believe ACA/Obamacare Will Bring Higher Costs, Worse Care. When America’s 18- to 29- year-olds were asked if they approved or disapproved of the comprehensive health reform package that the president signed into law in 2010, a solid majority disapproved.

When the law was referred to in November IOP polling as the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA), 39
percent of Millennials said they approved (56%: disapprove) and nearly identical proportions were found when the law was referred to as “Obamacare” (38%: approve; 57%: disapprove). These findings mirror recent ABC News/Washington Post nationwide polling (Nov. 14-17) finding 40 percent of adults supported the federal law making changes to the health care system, while 57 percent opposed it. By a margin of more than two-to-one, Millennial respondents believe that the quality of their care will get worse under the new health care provisions when termed “Affordable Care Act” (17%: care will improve; 44%: care will worsen) or “Obamacare” (18%: care will improve; 40%: care will worsen) in the November poll. Between 50 percent (when ACA is used) and 51 percent (when Obamacare is used) of young people believe their cost of care will increase under the health reform law; approximately one-in-ten (10% under ACA, 11% under Obamacare) said that their costs will likely decrease.

Less than One-Third of Uninsured Millennials Plan to Enroll in Exchanges Under new Health Care Law. Regardless of the term used in describing the federal health reform package, among the 22 percent of Millennials who do not have health insurance presently, 29 percent (13% definitely will enroll, 16% probably will enroll) said they will enroll in the program described as Obamacare, and 25 percent (10% definitely will enroll, 15% probably will enroll) said the same when it’s referred to as the Affordable Care Act. Less than 10 percent of Republicans plan to enroll in an exchange, less than 20 percent of Independents — and between 35 and 40 percent of Democrats, depending on the name associated with the law.

Near-Majority Support Recall of Congress and the President. In an effort to gauge young voters’ attitudes about President Obama and Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., November IOP polling found that a majority (52%) of 18- to 29- year-olds would choose to recall all members of Congress if it were possible, forty-five percent (45%) would recall their member of Congress (45% would not) and approximately the same number indicate that they would recall President Obama (47% recall, 46% not recall). In NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling, released in October during the time of the government shutdown, 60 percent of adults nationwide said they would cast a vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, if provided an opportunity. November IOP polling also found nineteen percent (19%) of Millennials who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and a majority (52%) of all voters under the age of 25 (compared to 40 percent between ages 25 and 29) would recall the president if they could; seventeen percent (17%) of those who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 would not support him if they could recast their vote today.

Student Debt Issues Transcend Political Party Affiliation; Majority Call Student Debt a “Major Problem.” A majority (54%) of those enrolled in a four-year college said that they or someone in their household currently has student loan debt. Among 18- to 29- year-olds, more than two-in-five (42%) Millennials said the same; 48 percent indicated that they had no debt. Regardless of whether or not they have debt, 57 percent of America’s 18- to 29- year-olds said they believe student debt is a “major problem” for young people in the U.S., with 22 percent saying it’s a “minor problem.” November IOP polling also found little disagreement among political parties regarding the severity of the student debt problem, with a majority of Democrats (62%), Republicans (57%) and Independents (55%) saying they believe the problem is “major.” Seventy percent (70%) reported that financial circumstances played an important (41% very, 29% somewhat) role in their decision whether or not to pursue a college education.

Obama Job Approval at Low Point, Approval of Both Parties in Congress Also Declines. Roughly four-in-ten (41%) of 18- to 29- year-olds indicated that they approved of Barack Obama’s performance as president (54%: disapprove) – representing the lowest approval rating IOP polling has reported since the beginning of his presidency (previous low: 46% approve, Dec. 2011) and a drop of 11 percentage points in seven months (52% approve: Apr. 2013). The president’s job performance ratings in every subgroup are now significantly lower than seen in April IOP polling, including among college students (39% approve: Nov. 2013; 50% approve: Apr. 2013). The double-digit decline in the president’s approval rating brings him closer in line with Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Just more than one-third (35%) say they approve of the way Democrats in Congress are handling their job (down from 40% in Apr. 2013 polling), with only 19 percent saying the same about Republicans in Congress (down from 27% in Apr. 2013 polling).

President Obama’s Job Approval Rating Falls to One-Third on Key Issues. President Obama’s job performance has also decreased significantly on four major issues over the past seven months. Over that period, the president’s approval rating has dropped for the way that he is handling: Iran – down 10 percentage points to 37 percent (47%: Apr. 2013); health care – down 9 points to 34 percent (43%: Apr. 2013); the economy – down 9 points to 33 percent (42%: Apr. 2013); and the federal budget deficit – down eight points to 28 percent (36%: Apr. 2013). Although April IOP polling did not include a question on the topic, November IOP polling on the President’s job performance on Syria showed only one-third (33%) of 18- to 29- year-olds in approval (60%: disapprove).

Millennials Unsure About Snowden’s Legacy. Millennials were asked whether they considered Edward Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency who released classified documents to the media that demonstrated what he believed was an unethical collection of private data from U.S. citizens by the U.S. Intelligence Community, a “patriot” or “traitor.” More than half (52%) indicated that they were unsure, with twenty-two percent (22%) describing him as a “patriot,” and the same number (22%) saying “traitor.” Poll respondents were also asked a hypothetical situation where “if you found yourself in a position similar to that of Edward Snowden, would you release the classified documents to the media, or would you not release the documents?” By a margin of two-to-one, more Millennials said they would not release such documents (31%: would not release; 15%: would release) with half (50%) unsure.

The goal of the project was to collect 2,000 completed interviews with young Americans between 18 and 29 years old. The main sample data collection took place from October 30 through November 11. A small pretest was conducted prior to the main survey to examine the accuracy of the data and the length of the interview.

Four thousand, nine hundred and twenty-one (4,921) KnowledgePanel members were assigned to the study. The cooperation rate was 42.5 percent resulting in 2,089 completed interviews. Forty-nine (49) interviews were conducted in Spanish with the remainder done in English. The web-enabled KnowledgePanel® is a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of
telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, GfK provides a laptop and ISP connection at no cost. People who already have computers and Internet service are permitted to participate using their own equipment. Panelists then receive unique log-in information for accessing surveys online, and are sent e-mails throughout each month inviting them to participate in research. More technical information is available at and by request to the IOP.
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Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, was established in 1966 as a memorial to President Kennedy. The IOP’s mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis to inspire them to consider careers in politics and public service. The Institute strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs. More information is available online at

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