Young adults in the United States are particularly focused on education and the economy as this year's presidential election approaches, according to a new poll.
Nearly 2,000 adults ages 18 to 30 were surveyed using a sample from the GenForward panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. young adult population. The poll is conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and highlights the voices of young people of color.
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Respondents were asked to choose from a list of 22 issues driving their choice of a political candidate this year, with 31% naming education among their top three issues. Education ranked as the top issue for young whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans, while racism and immigration ranked high for blacks and Hispanics, respectively. Three-quarters of young adults support free college education, with blacks, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics expressing the greatest support.
Almost a quarter of young adults listed economic growth at the top of their list of important political issues, with 18% listing economic inequality among their top issues. A majority of young people also say the distribution of wealth in the country is unfair.
Most students support increasing the federal minimum wage, but have different opinions about how to go about it. Forty-three percent of young adults want the federal minimum wage raised to $12 an hour, as proposed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Nineteen percent of young adults want minimum wage raised to $15 an hour, as proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.). Meanwhile, 7% of young adults want it increased to $20 an hour.
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While 60% of young people believe undocumented residents should be allowed to stay in the United States, that view varies greatly by race. It is shared by 79% of Hispanics, 75% of Asian-Americans, 67% of blacks and 48% of whites. Most young people also reject two immigration proposals put forward by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. About 70% say the United States should not build a wall along the Mexican border to curb illegal immigration, a sentiment that is particularly strong among Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Sixty-nine percent of young people reject a temporary ban on Muslims who are not U.S. citizens entering the country. Thirty percent of Hispanics name immigration among their top issues in choosing a political candidate.
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Terrorism and homeland security tied with health care as the third most important political issue for young adults this year. Most young adults support airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, but support varies greatly by race and ethnicity. Sixty-three percent of whites under 30 say they support airstrikes, compared with 44% of Asian-Americans, 42% of Hispanics, and 39% of blacks. About a third of respondents in each group are ambivalent.
Overall, 48% of young adults believe it is more important to protect U.S. residents' right to gun ownership than to control gun ownership, which is supported by 52% of young adults. Whites were the most likely to say it is more important to protect the right to gun ownership (55%). Meanwhile, 83% of Asian-Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, compared with 58% of blacks, and 56% of Hispanics. Gun control is among the top five political issues this year for Asian-Americans (AP/New York Times, 7/12).