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Millennials divided on whether justice system is fair to minorities

American millennials are split on whether the US justice system is fair to people of different races and ethnicities, a new poll from Harvard's Institute of Politics found.

Protests erupted after unarmed black men died at the hands of police in Ferguson, Mo., North Charleston, S.C., and, most recently, this week in Baltimore — prompting a national conversation about race relations and law enforcement. The Harvard poll of 18- to 29-year-olds showed 49 percent lacked confidence in the justice system, while another 49 percent said the system is fair.

The survey also found changes in millennials' political attitudes compared to previous generations. "A lot of people consider young people today to be the same young people from 2008, but this poll shows that is not true," said John Della Volpe, who conducted the survey.


For example, those surveyed supported a more forceful American foreign policy. More than half said they wanted Americans troops to take out ISIS in the Middle East. In addition, support for the United States to "take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts" has grown 10 percentage points since last year.

Della Volpe said a candidate — Republican or Democrat — who can connect with young people on either criminal justice reform or a more interventionist foreign policy could gain millennial support.

The poll surveyed 3,000 young Americans between March 18 and April 1. It also showed millennials view the country's top issue as the economy — a category that includes jobs, government spending, and income inequality. Twelve percent of respondents said foreign affairs and terrorism were the most important issue for them, and 9 percent responded health care topped their list.

Asked for their feelings on specific issues, 80 percent said body cameras on local police would reduce racial inequalities, and 55 percent said global warming is man-made.


President Obama saw his job approval rating improve 7 percentage points since a similar poll in October.

In terms of the 2016 election, the poll brought good and bad news for Democrats. The survey showed 55 percent of respondents prefer a Democrat win the White House, versus 40 percent who said they prefer a Republican president. This figure has decreased from 2012, when 67 percent of millennials backed Obama, according to a Tufts University analysis.

The respondents preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic nominee, but there was no consensus among the large Republican field.

It's clear, however, how these candidates can reach younger voters. The survey found 83 percent of respondents had a Facebook account, 44 percent had an Instagram account, 39 percent were on Twitter. A third of respondents said they had a Pinterest or a Snapchat account.

This group reported they were more likely to participate in politics on the Internet than they were attend a political rally or donate money.

James Pindell can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.