Younger Voters Lukewarm on President Obama

This is the first in a series of posts on a survey of 3,103 18-29 year-olds conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics and Knowledge Networks. The survey was conducted March 20, 2013 – April 8, 2013.

President Obama’s approval rating with 18-29 year olds is 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove. This is marginally better than his approval rating with the general population, which has hovered around 1:1 for most of the spring (on March 29th, the approximate halfway point of the Harvard survey, Obama’s approval rating was 48{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove in the Real Clear Politics average).

While the President’s approval rating is solid with younger voters, it is lower than what you would expect from a President who is typically portrayed by the media as being a rock star with the so-called millennial generation. However, the President lost his rock star status with this group in the fall of 2010, and has never quite gotten it back.

chart 1

The reason for President Obama’s lukewarm approval numbers with the voters who are a key component of the Obama coalition is a simple one; they just don’t trust him on the issues.

The Harvard poll asked 18-29 year olds if they approved or disapproved of the way President Obama is handling five key issues, and the majority of respondents DISAPPROVED of the way he was handling each one.

Thinking specifically about Barack Obama, do you approve or disapprove of the way he is handling:

Issue Total Approve Total Disapprove
Iran 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 51{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}
Health care 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}
The economy 42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}
Gun violence^ 42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}
Federal budget deficit 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} 62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}

^This survey was conducted prior to the Senate vote on background checks

With such lackluster approval numbers on a variety of key issues, the real surprise is that Obama won this group by 23 points in November (37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Romney/60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Obama).

Obama is able to maintain a large electoral advantage with these younger voters because while millennials may be lukewarm on him, they are ice cold on the Republican party. The reasons for the Republican Party’s poor standing with 18-29 year-olds will be explored in my next post.

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