PORTLAND, Ore. — In the days after President Donald Trump's election, thousands of teenagers across the nation walked out of class in protest. Others rallied to his
It was an unusual show of political engagement from future voters who may alter America's political landscape in 2020 — or even in next year's midterm elections.
Now, a new survey of children ages 13 to 17 conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research with the permission of their parents finds that America's teens are almost as politically disillusioned and pessimistic about the nation's divisions as their parents. The difference? They aren't quite as quick to write off the future.
Eight in 10 feel that Americans are divided when it comes to the nation's most important values and 6 in 10 say the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Nyles Adams, a 14-year-old from New York City, was in kindergarten when Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation's first black president. Adams, the grandson of Trinidadian immigrants, remembers watching the inauguration on TV and talking with his mother about the particular significance of Obama's election for his black, immigrant family.
Now, with Trump as president, he feels America's best days are behind it, and the nation will be worse off in 40 years. Yet like 57
"Sometimes it does get you down, but I try not to focus on it too much because I see myself as someone who despite all the odds that are against me, I'm still going to prevail," he said.
That youthful optimism is hard to crush. While rates vary by race, 56
But like adults, the poll reveals deep divisions along familiar lines.
Just a quarter of teens say they have a lot in common with people of different political views. Three in four already have a party preference, including 29
Elijah Arredondo, a second-generation Mexican-American from La Habra, California, disliked both major party candidates but is now worried about his family under Trump.
His mother signed up for the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has promised to dismantle and replace.
"I feel like anyone can achieve the American Dream, but for some people it's a lot harder for them to do, so these things help people," he said.
Caroline Millsaps, of Garner, North Carolina, describes herself as a liberal Democrat and says climate change and women's rights are her top political concerns. Last year, she took time away from her busy competitive dance schedule to attend two Bernie Sanders rallies with her mother.
"I always watch Fox News to get a different perspective, and I have some friends who support Trump and so I'll ask them, 'What is your opinion on this?'" she said. "I try to see both sides of the situation and see which side fits my view best."
Millsaps, 16, talks about politics daily with her parents and that has strongly influenced her views.
Sophie Svigel, 17, attends a private Christian school in Dallas and identifies herself as a conservative Republican. She talks to her Republican parents about politics and almost always agrees with them, but is also heavily influenced by her faith-based school, she said.
"I feel like a lot of the bad things that are going on are not really spoken of and are hidden," she said. "I feel like the politicians and people in politics speak very vaguely about the problems that we're facing."
That cynicism echoes in the AP-NORC poll. Just 16
Jessi Balcom, from Bend, Oregon, has tried to fight that cynicism by pouring her energy into delivering food to homeless people and engaging in open-minded debate with those whose politics are different from hers. Nine in 10 teens say they have participated in civic activities like volunteering or raising money for a cause.
"It's not you versus me, it's us versus the problem and the problem isn't other people," said Balcom, 17, a Green Party supporter.
"There are a lot of really big problems that we need to solve, but I think that getting angry is the worst thing that we can do," she said. "It doesn't matter what side of politics they're on, conservative or liberal. I don't want to hate anyone."
The AP-NORC poll of 790 teenagers age 13-17 was conducted online and by phone Dec. 7-31, 2016. A sample of parents with teenage children was drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Parents then gave permission for their children to be interviewed. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.
The spelling of Jessi Balcom's surname has been corrected in this story. It is Balcom, not Balcon.
Associated Press Polling Editor Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Gillian Flaccus on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/gflaccus