The Graduating
Class of


by the numbers

National Politics

By Alison W. Steinbach and Sarah Wu

Graduating a little over a year before the 2020 presidential election, the Class of 2019 overwhelmingly disapproves of President Donald Trump, his policies, and the current state of national politics. Survey results indicate a class prepared to be politically active in the years ahead, with 88 percent of respondents reporting they planned to vote in the 2020 election — as compared to the 72.6 percent who said they voted in 2016.

Some seniors reported that the 2016 election altered their postgraduate career plans, either prompting them to steer clear of jobs in the federal government or motivating them to work in the public sector instead of in the private sector. Just over five percent of respondents now hope to run for political office in the future. Though 92.2 percent of respondents view Trump unfavorably, only half of respondents view the Democratic Party favorably, and seniors are divided over who to support in the Democratic primary.

Left-Leaning Campus

Slightly more than two-thirds of surveyed seniors described themselves as “liberal or very liberal,” which aligns with results from previous years’ surveys. Nearly 13 percent of students said they identified as “conservative” or “very conservative” before coming to Harvard, while only 8.8 percent of respondents identify as such now. Nearly a quarter of respondents describe their political views as “moderate.”

  • Of the respondents, 27.4 percent of women described themselves as “very liberal,” compared to 12.1 percent of men. On the other end of the spectrum, 3.4 percent of men described themselves as “very conservative,” compared to one percent of women.
  • Harvard also seems to have increased students’ political awareness: around three percent of respondents said they were “apolitical” before coming to college, and less than one percent say the same now.
  • Among surveyed seniors, 72.6 percent voted in the 2016 presidential election. Sixteen percent were eligible to vote but did not do so. A large majority of survey respondents who did vote — 89.3 percent — voted for Hillary Clinton. Gary Johnson and Donald Trump each received 4.1 percent of surveyed seniors’ votes.
  • Nearly half of respondents are registered Democrats, while 6.1 percent are registered Republicans. Registered independents comprise 16.5 percent of the respondents, leaving 27.9 percent unregistered.
  • Although the Class of 2019 is mostly liberal, only half of respondents expressed a favorable view of the Democratic Party, while 35.7 percent expressed an unfavorable view. The Republican Party, by contrast, garnered a favorable opinion from 7.3 percent of respondents and an unfavorable opinion from 81.6 percent.
  • In the 2018 midterm elections, 61.5 percent of respondents voted. Of those who did not vote, 27.7 percent were eligible, but did not vote.
  • Asked whether they have chosen not to express an opinion in an academic setting during their time at Harvard for fear of offending others, 71.6 percent of respondents said yes. Of registered Republicans, 95.2 percent said they have kept quiet for this reason, compared to 64.9 percent of registered Democrats.

Politics Today

The majority of senior respondents — 68 percent — said they feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared to 13 percent who believe it is headed in the right direction. Around 19 percent of respondents said they are unsure.

  • Seniors are largely disillusioned with Trump and his current policies, with 92.2 percent of respondents viewing Trump unfavorably. By contrast, 87.2 percent view former President Barack Obama favorably.
  • More than half of respondents said they believe Trump should be impeached, while 34.2 percent disapprove of impeachment and 14.7 percent indicated they are have no opinion.
  • Nearly half of respondents expressed a favorable opinion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, with 22.5 percent reporting no opinion and 13.5 percent indicating they feel they lack sufficient information to form an opinion. Thirty-six percent of respondents view the Mueller report favorably, 15.9 percent view it unfavorably, 28.1 percent have no opinion, and 19.6 percent felt they didn’t have enough information.
  • Amid recent controversies surrounding Facebook, 48.5 percent of respondents said they view the social media network unfavorably, 31.9 percent view it favorably, and 18.4 percent have no opinion.
  • As the #MeToo movement has spread nationwide and across Harvard’s campus, three quarters of the Class of 2019 respondents said they view it favorably, compared to 8.4 percent who view it unfavorably and 12.7 percent who have no opinion. Female respondents were more likely to have a favorable view of the movement, with 86.8 percent in favor compared to 64 percent of male respondents.
  • Forty-three percent of respondents support the Green New Deal, a set of environmental proposals championed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D - NY) and U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D - MA). Among surveyed seniors, 18.7 percent do not support the proposals, 17 percent have no opinion, and 21.7 percent indicated they do not have sufficient information to form an opinion.
  • Nearly 90 percent of surveyed seniors indicated they are “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that police officers in the United States treat white and black people equally.

Looking Forward

Looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, 88 percent of respondents said they plan to vote.

  • Among surveyed seniors who indicated they are members of the Democratic party, the top five contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary are Elizabeth Warren, who drew 24.5 percent of graduating seniors, Joe Biden with 18.9 percent, Pete Buttigieg with 14.8 percent, Kamala Harris with 12.5 percent, and Bernie Sanders with 7.7 percent.
  • Thirty-one percent of those who plan to vote in the 2020 Republican presidential primary said they plan to vote for Trump, followed by 26.1 percent who plan to vote for a write-in candidate, 25.4 percent who support Bill Weld, and 15.3 percent indicating they do not plan to vote even though they will be eligible.
  • Asked whether the 2016 election results changed their postgraduate career plans, 16 percent of respondents said yes. Of those who said they changed their plans in light of the election, 35 percent abandoned their hope of working in the federal government, 14.8 percent took a job in the public sector instead of in the private sector, and 5.5 percent now hope to run for political office.