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National

Harvard Poll: Millennials Disapprove Of President Trump, Seek To Unify Country

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now to a new study that looks at millennial attitudes toward politics and political discourse. As NPR's Vanessa Romo reports, there are some surprising findings.

VANESSA ROMO, BYLINE: If President Trump were a student, he'd have to have a serious talk with his academic adviser.

EMILY SALEME: I think he realized that the job of president is a lot harder than he anticipated.

LUKE GRAETER: I really don't like a lot of the things that Trump has done that have kind of undermined democratic norms.

MEG COLLYER: I guess I would also give him around a D.

ROMO: That D comes from Meg Collyer. She and fellow students Emily Saleme and Luke Graeter spoke with me at the Ohio State University. And like most of their millennial peers, they're uneasy with Trump's performance as leader of the free world. Yet only 41 percent of millennials give him a flunking grade. Senior Amanda Patterson (ph) tells me she's frustrated with the lack of what she calls mesh in Congress.

AMANDA PATTERSON: There's no mesh going on right now, and I think the people can feel that, too. And we're like, what are we doing?

ROMO: Unlike their boomer or Gen X parents, these young adults - and in this case, we're talking about 18- to 29-year-olds - they more than any other generation hope to unify the country. For them, the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in American history, strict party loyalty is super outdated. John Della Volpe with the Institute of Politics at Harvard has been analyzing data on millennials for the last 18 years.

JOHN DELLA VOLPE: No one wants to be divided. They each want to work to help unify America in their own particular way.

ROMO: Over that time, he's observed this group has an a la carte approach to politics. Republican student Luke Grader looks every bit the part of a young conservative - white button-down, blue slacks, even stars and stripes socks. On the controversial travel ban...

GRAETER: I thought that was bad for the country.

ROMO: Trump's entanglements with Russia...

GRAETER: Have really kind of a malaise over our political system in some ways.

ROMO: On the other hand...

GRAETER: I support his strike in Syria. I thought that was a measured response to a human rights crisis.

ROMO: Nearly half of young adults strongly believe politics plays a greater and more tangible role in their everyday lives. It determines what they buy, who they're friends with and whether or not they vote. But in an unexpected twist, the chances that they would run for public office - give a 9 percent. That's largely because they don't trust the government. Macayla Lee's (ph) a sophomore.

MACAYLA LEE: A lot of the distrust comes from seeing someone who isn't you or isn't your community making the decisions that are greatly fed to you and your community.

ROMO: So look for a Lee campaign flyer sometime in 2020. One last thing - despite being the first generation of digital natives, 60 percent have a message for the president. Lay off the Twitter. Vanessa Romo, NPR News, Washington.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this transcript, the last names of Emily Saleme, Luke Graeter and Meg Collyer were misspelled.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.