American's youth are down on the future, with nearly half of those ages 18 through 29 believing the "American Dream" is more dead than alive, a nationwide survey released Thursday by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics shows.

Reflecting the sour mood of the overall electorate, 48 percent of those asked “For you personally, is the idea of the American Dream alive or dead?” responded “dead.” Those who picked “alive” accounted for 49 percent.

While the race or ethnicity of the poll's respondents didn't significantly impact the results, the level of education of those questioned did play a role in determining the answer. Fifty-eight percent of college graduates said the dream was alive for them personally, compared to 42 percent of those not in college or who had never enrolled in college.

“It is disturbing that about half of the largest generation in America doesn't believe the American dream is there for them personally,” said John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director. “That frustration, I think, is tied into a government they don't trust and they don't think is working for them.”

The survey also found that America’s young Democrats, who helped propel President Barack Obama in his 2008 primary victory over Hillary Clinton, are more supportive of Senator Bernie Sanders than the former secretary of state, senator, and first lady.

The poll, taken about a month ago, shows 41 percent of young potential Democratic primary voters support the senator from Vermont, compared to 35 percent for Clinton. Less than 1 percent back former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders stand on stage together during candidate introductions at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on Oct. 24, 2015.
Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders stand on stage together during candidate introductions at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on Oct. 24, 2015.
Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Sanders registered just 1 percent when the survey last reported its findings in April. Still, Della Volpe said Sanders will need to run up bigger numbers with young voters, if he wants to overtake Clinton. “For Sanders to have success on a national basis, he needs to be leading Clinton by a much larger number among young people than he is now,” he said.

A strong majority—66 percent—of potential Democratic primary voters in the age group said the fact that Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist made “no difference” in their likelihood to support his candidacy.

Among young Republicans, billionaire Donald Trump is backed by 22 percent, closely followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 20 percent. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, the two Republicans who have made the most overt appeals to young voters, were supported by 7 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

Republican presidential hopefuls Ben Carson and Donald Trump smile during the CNBC debate on Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colorado.
Republican presidential hopefuls Ben Carson and Donald Trump smile during the CNBC debate on Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colorado.
Photographer: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Others Republicans in single digits included Senator Ted Cruz of Texas at 7 percent and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at 6 percent. All others were at 3 percent or less.

Overall, a majority of 56 percent of those in the age group say they would prefer a Democrat to win the White House in 2016, a net increase of 5 percentage points since the institute released a similar poll in April.

Forty-three percent of America’s youth said they support building a wall on the border of the U.S. and Mexico—an idea that's been pressed especially hard by Trump—with 53 percent saying they oppose the proposal. Among Republicans, the support grows to 70 percent.

Those 18 to 29 most value integrity, level-headedness, and authenticity—not experience—in a future president, the poll shows.

The survey of 2,011 Americans ages 18 to 29 was taken Oct. 30-Nov. 9. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points on the full sample.

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