The Institute of Politics at Harvard University is out with its annual poll of young Americans, and its results show rising optimism in people ages 18 to 29. In an interview with GBH All Things Considered host Arun Rath, the institute's director of polling, John Della Volpe, described it as a stark turnaround from recent years' polls, driven in large part by improving attitudes among young people of color.
"There's this sense of hope and optimism that I haven't seen in many, many years," Della Volpe said. "It wasn't that long ago at all where I would speak to young people of color, African Americans in particular, [and] they felt under attack in this country because of the color of their skin."
According to Della Volpe, during the Trump administration, less than one in five young African Americans said that they had hope about the future of America.
"Now, we have more than seven out of ten young African-Americans saying they're hopeful about the future of America," he said. "Young people, specifically young people of color, are kind of seeing the sun for the first time in quite a while."
The uptick in optimism about the country's future comes amid broad support among young people for 78-year-old President Joe Biden, according to the poll. Biden received a 59% approval rating, with 63% of college undergraduates approving — the highest in the poll's history.
Della Volpe, who at one point consulted for Biden's presidential campaign, said the president's goals align with the priorities of the young people who were polled.
"He believes in ending gun violence and fighting and combating climate change," Della Volpe said. "He believes in battling systemic racism. He's listening to young people, and he's listening to other cohorts of the electorate."
Della Volpe said that the rise in optimism and support for Biden comes as young people report higher levels of political engagement.
"Every single sign indicates that this generation, they're turning this fear that we talked about earlier into something much more powerful, into something that can change America," he said.