Young People, Party Affiliation and the Vision of the Future


As Democratic presidential hopefuls kick off their first debates this week, they will need to put forth policy proposals that instill more confidence among recent college graduates in their party. According to data from the Cengage Student Opportunity Index, there is a vast difference of opinion about the direction of the country among recent and upcoming college graduates, with those identifying as Democrats not nearly as optimistic about the future as Republicans.

“Once again, higher education is in the spotlight during a presidential election, and this presents an opportunity to discuss meaningful change,” said Michael E. Hansen, CEO of Cengage. “There is an affordability crisis in higher education and many Americans are questioning the value of a degree. Whether Republican or Democrat, one thing is clear: students deserve more affordable options to access education.”

The Cengage Student Opportunity Index measured the opportunity environment across 17 indicators, using existing public data and a survey of 2,500 recent and upcoming graduates.

Of surveyed graduates and upcoming graduates, Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say the country is moving in the right direction – (68 percent to 18 percent); and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the country is headed in the wrong direction (70 percent to 21 percent).

Other key findings include:

  • Optimism and the economy: Recent and upcoming Republican college grads are more likely to be optimistic about the future than their Democrat counterparts (90 percent to 79 percent).
    • Recent and near Republican grads are also more likely than Democrats to think they will be better off than their parents (69 percent to 61 percent), and they’re much more likely to think the U.S. economic outlook is better than Democrats (73 percent to 39 percent).
  • Employment opportunity: Upcoming Republican grads are more confident than Democrats that they will land a job in their field fairly quickly after graduating (97 percent to 91 percent), and both recent and upcoming Republican grads are more confident that job will meet their salary expectations than Democrats (75 percent to 66 percent).
  • Personal life: Recent and upcoming Republican grads are also more satisfied than their Democrat counterparts with their love life (77 percent to 69 percent), physical health (75 percent to 64 percent) and mental health (80 percent to 69 percent).

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