By Scott Malone
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Fewer than one in four young U.S. voters plans to vote in this year's congressional midterm elections, with Republicans significantly more likely to head to the polls than Democrats, according to a poll released on Tuesday.
The poll of voters aged 18 to 29 by Harvard University's Institute of Politics found young voters' trust in public institutions, including the White House, Congress and the military, at a five-year low with young voters trusting them to do the right thing just 31 percent of the time.
With a little more than six months to go before the 2014 Congressional elections, where Republicans aim to retake a majority in the U.S. Senate to offset the power of President Barack Obama, young Republican voters are more enthusiastic about voting than Democrats.
The poll of 3,058 young voters found 44 percent of those who voted for Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney in 2012 definitely planned to vote in the midterms, compared with 35 percent of those who voted for Obama.
"The Republican constituencies are more enthusiastic and more likely to participate than the Democrats," said John Della Volpe, polling director at the institute.
Young voters were less likely to vote in the midterms than they had been in 2010, with 23 percent planning to vote, down from 31 percent in a similar survey four years ago.
The results offered more heartening news for Democrats looking ahead to the 2016 race for the White House, with 52 percent saying they viewed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton favorably, while just 21 percent viewed New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie in a positive light.
Some 44 percent of young voters said they supported making marijuana legal, with respondents aged 25 to 29 more likely to support that view than those aged 19-24, according to the poll taken March 22 to April 4 with a 1.8 percent margin of error.
That tracks with a general pattern of voters in their early 20s espousing more conservative views than those a few years older, Della Volpe said.
"The 25 to 29 year olds came of age in the area of Obama's first election and so many of the young people were part of that campaign that they continue to hold more favorable views," he said. "Their younger brothers and sisters came of age during the recession and they didn't have that initial connection with Obama and we can see that playing out."
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Grant McCool)