By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON (Reuters) - Young Americans are unhappy with virtually every major thing President Barack Obama has done since he was re-elected, but they would still vote for him today, according to the results of a Harvard University survey released on Wednesday.
The national poll by Harvard's Institute of Politics of more than 2,000 people aged 18 through 29 is intended to provide insight into the political views of the youngest U.S. voters. This increasingly influential demographic known as the "millennial generation" has been a traditional base of Obama's support.
More than 50 percent of respondents in the survey, taken between October 30 and November 11, said they disapproved of how the Democratic president handled key issues in his second term, including Syria, Iran, the economy, healthcare and the federal budget deficit.
Most cited the economy as their top concern.
Still, disapproval ratings were higher for both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. And a plurality of respondents, 46 percent, said they would still vote for Obama for president if they could recast their 2012 ballots, compared with 35 percent who said they would vote for the then-Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
Some 55 percent of the survey respondents who reported casting ballots in the 2012 presidential election said they had voted for Obama, compared with 33 percent for Romney.
Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson said the poll revealed cracks forming in Obama's base.
"This isn't a problem for Obama because he's not coming up for election again," Grayson said in a conference call with reporters. "But it is a potential problem for any Democratic candidate seeking to mobilize young Americans."
The results follow a CNN/ORC poll released on November 25 that showed a growing number of Americans doubted Obama's ability to manage the nation, amid ongoing problems plaguing the president's signature domestic policy achievement, the healthcare reform law known as Obamacare.
Obama's administration has also come under fire. Critics claim it is dealing poorly with the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons and Iran over its nuclear ambitions, and has failed to rein in U.S. public spending or revive the economy.
Some 57 percent of respondents in the Harvard poll said they disapproved of the Obamacare law, with 40 percent expecting the quality of healthcare to worsen and about half expecting such costs to rise.
"Among the 22 percent in our survey who report that they have no insurance, less than one-third tell us they are likely to enroll," according to the report detailing the survey findings. "A plurality however are 50-50 and are therefore open to enrolling under the right circumstances."
UNHAPPY WITH EVERYONE
The Harvard survey respondents spread out the blame for Washington's shortcomings beyond Obama and the Democratic Party. In terms of job performance, 54 percent said they disapproved of the president, 59 percent disapproved of Democrats in Congress, and a whopping 75 percent disapproved of Republicans in Congress.
Conservative U.S. Republicans took a hard line in the fight over October's U.S. government shutdown, which was waged over the party's demands to stop the launch of Obamacare. But delays in pay to some public workers, closings of national parks and reductions in public services only deepened Americans' frustration.
"Nobody was happy with anybody after the shutdown," Grayson said.
Asked which proposals they would prefer to see enacted to cut the federal deficit, respondents tended to favor increasing taxes for the wealthy and cutting certain types of military spending - including on the nuclear arsenal and the size of the Navy fleet.
More than 70 percent also said they would prefer not to see any cuts to education spending on kindergarten through high school, the poll showed.
In a sign of ambivalence over the role of Edward Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency, in unveiling details of the U.S. spying program, 52 percent of survey respondents said they were not sure if he was a traitor or a patriot. Some 22 percent labeled him a traitor and an equal 22 percent labeled him a patriot.
Snowden is living in Russia as a fugitive after President Vladimir Putin granted him asylum against Washington's wishes.
"The Snowden stuff shows that these 18-to-29-year-olds are not that supportive of giving up personal information for the interests of national security," Grayson said.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Von Ahn)