A new poll indicates that President Obama has his work cut out for him as he barnstorms the country trying to rally young voters to help keep Democrats in power in the looming midterm elections.
A new national poll of America’s 18-29 year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, finds waning enthusiasm for participation in the midterm elections as less than three-in-10 (27 percent) say they will definitely be voting in November, a drop of nine points from 11 months ago (36 percent).
The president has been criss-crossing the nation in recent weeks, in a last-ditch effort to mobilize the young voters who came out in force in 2008, helping propel him to the White House.
Obama has been headlining university rallies reminiscent of those that became a hallmark of his 2008 campaign, urging college students and other young people to support his struggling Democratic allies in Congress.
“Although Millennial enthusiasm for the midterm elections seems to have slipped over the past year, recent election cycles show candidates who can motivate this critical demographic will have an important advantage in November,” says John Culver, interim director of the Harvard institute.
If Obama fails to inspire members of the so-called “Millennial Generation” to come to the rescue of Democrats on Election Day, it appears it will be a tremendous lost opportunity because the Harvard poll also finds a solid majority of Millennials (53 percent to 42 percent) say they would prefer a Congress controlled by Democrats as an outcome of the November election.
Democrats increasingly are facing a potential wipeout of their majority status in both the House and Senate, at the hands of Republicans and their conservative tea party allies who are demonstrating a far greater enthusiasm to vote on November 2.
“In 2008, Millennials took control of their own destiny, entered the political process and changed the direction of the country,” says John Della Volpe, director of polling for the institute. “Two years later, the challenges they face as a generation could not be higher. Let’s hope they reverse the current decline in interest and participation, and continue the process of becoming this era’s defining political force.”
The web-enabled survey of 2,004 18-29 year-old U.S. citizens with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.2 percentage points (95-percent confidence level) was conducted with research partner Knowledge Networks for the Harvard institute between September 24 and October 4.
Notable poll findings include:
- Millennial interest in 2010 midterm elections waning. Enthusiasm by America’s 18-29 year-olds for participating in the upcoming midterm elections has slipped over the past year. October 2010 IOP polling shows less than one-third of Millennials (27 percent) say they will definitely be voting, a drop of four percentage points from February IOP polling (31 percent) and nine points from polling months ago (36 percent). Among those enrolled in four-year colleges, 35 percent indicate that they will definitely vote, a similar proportion to what was found among four-year college students in 2006 IOP polling (34 percent). The proportion of Millennials considering themselves politically engaged and active has also dropped over the past 11 months from 24 percent in November 2009 to only 18 percent today.
- Solid majority of Millennials prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress. A solid majority of young Americans today (53 percent-42 percent) say they prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress as an outcome of the midterm elections. However, among young independents a plurality say they would prefer a Republican-controlled Congress after the November elections (48 percent-43 percent).
- Job approval ratings continue to slide for President Obama as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Obama‘s overall job performance rating has continued to decline over the last year, as less than a majority (49 percent) now say they approve of the job he’s doing as president – a drop of seven percentage points from February IOP polling (56 percent) and nine points from November 2009 polling (58 percent). Millennial approval of Congress’ job performance has also declined with fewer approving of the job performance of Republicans in Congress (Oct.-28 percent; Feb.- 32 percent; Nov. 2009-35 percent) and Democrats in Congress (Oct.-39 percent; Feb.-42 percent; Nov. 2009-48 percent) over the past 11 months.
- In 2012 preview, Obama bests potential Republican challengers by 25 to 30 points, dead heat against “generic” Republican. In a proposed election match-up between Barack Obama and “the Republican Party’s candidate for president,” a dead-heat emerges (31 percent Obama, 30 percent Republican, and 39 percent “Don’t know”). However, when three possible Republican candidates were named in the match-up, the results changed dramatically in favor of Obama (Obama 44 percent – Newt Gingrich 14 percent; Obama 48 percent – Sarah Palin 23 percent; Obama 43 percent – Mitt Romney 18 percent).
- Plurality of Millennials say 2001 tax cuts should be extended for those who earn less than $250,000 per year. The IOP poll found a plurality (44 percent) of Millennials saying the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts should continue only for those earning less than $250,000 per year, with 38% saying the cuts should continue for everyone. This finding stands in contrast to other national polling that indicates a plurality of Americans believe that the tax cuts should be extended to all Americans. In a Sept. 8-13 AP-GfK poll of 1,000 adults nationwide, more than four-in-10 (44 percent) of respondents believed the 2001 tax cuts should be extended for everyone, with only 39 percent saying the cuts should continue only for those earning less than $250,000 annually.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.