Harvard Poll: Democrats Slip Among Young Voters

Guy Benson
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Posted: Apr 30, 2015 10:27 AM
Harvard Poll: Democrats Slip Among Young Voters

Harvard University's Institute of Politics has released its biennial poll of young voters (aged 18-29), producing mixed results for conservatives:

(1) President Obama's approval rating has improved to 50 percent, up from 43 percent in the fall.  Forty-nine percent disapprove of the president's job performance.  Obama is underwater on the economy (-5), healthcare (-13), and ISIS (-20).  He splits roughly evenly on climate change and race relations.  Approval of Democrats in Congress is upside-down by nearly 20 points, while Congressional Republicans are more than 50 points in the hole among this group.  A plurality (40 percent) of young voters self-identify as political independents.  When pushed, they split down the middle between "liberal" and "conservative."  Many more people are willing to associate themselves with the term "conservative" than "Republican."

(2) On the 2016 campaign:

The Democratic Party may be losing its overwhelming hold on the nation’s youngest voters – suggesting trouble holding the White House. Millennial voters, ages 18-29, are not as decidedly Democratic as when Barack Obama was on the presidential ticket, according to a new poll by the Institute on Politics at Harvard University. Today, they say they’d vote for a Democrat in 2016 by 55-40 percent over a Republican. That’s down sharply from the 66-32 percent support they gave Obama against Republican John McCain in 2008. It’s also down from the 60-37 percent support they gave Obama in 2012 against Republican Mitt Romney. Instead, it’s about the same as the 54-45 margin they gave Democrat John Kerry in 2004 over Republican President George W. Bush. Kerry lost the general election. Young voters are “up for grabs” in 2016, according to John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director.

(3) The GOP actually performs rather well among white Millennials, holding a 12-point advantage among that cohort (which Romney carried in 2012).  But the party gets hammered with young people of color, losing blacks (87/8), and Hispanics (68/27).


(4) Many of America's institutions are held in very low regard by Millennials.  They were asked if various institutions would do the right thing "all/most" of the time, or "sometimes/never:"  Poor marks for the federal government (26/74), the president (36/63), Congress (18/82), and -- coming in dead last -- The media (12/88).  Faring better were local police (49/50), scientists (56/44), and the United States military (53/46).

(5) On policy, both sides of the spectrum can point to advantages: Liberals will tout young voters' embrace the notion of health care as a "human right," support for action on climate change, "even at the expense of economic growth," and favorable views toward more government spending to reduce poverty.  Conservatives can applaud this demographics rejection of race-based affirmative action, embrace of school choice, and agreement that tax cuts are an effective method of expanding economic growth.  Respondents also express skepticism of the idea that government spending can drive growth.  Interestingly, this age group seems suspicious of immigration (generally, not just of the illegal variety), and supports the deployment of US ground troops to combat ISIS.