President Barack Obama was twice elected to the White House with overwhelming majorities of enthusiastic young voters, but two new polls suggest Democrats may have to do more with less in this fall’s midterm elections.
Facing an uphill battle to hold the Senate, the Democratic Party may be in for a wakeup call from young voters, according to a new poll conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Just 23 percent of the key Democratic-leaning demographic of 18-29 year-olds say they will definitely vote in the midterms this fall. At this point in 2010, 31 percent said they would definitely go to the polls, but only 24 percent ultimately voted. Additionally, Republican-leaning 18-29 year olds are significantly more enthusiastic about voting this fall.
The Harvard poll found self-identiﬁed conservatives (32 percent) are 10 points more likely to say they will go to the polls than liberals (22 percent), while men (28 percent) are nine points more likely to vote than women (19 percent), and young Whites (27 percent) are more likely to vote than Blacks (19 percent) and Hispanics (19 percent). And 44 percent of Mitt Romney voters said they will vote this fall, compared to just 35 percent of those who voted for Obama.
The results come as younger voters increasingly distrust the president, Congress, and much of the rest of the federal government, with even trust in the military falling below the 50 percent threshold. “It’s been clear for some time now that young people are growing more disillusioned and disconnected from Washington,” Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe said in a statement. “There’s an erosion of trust in the individuals and institutions that make government work — and now we see the lowest level of interest in any election we’ve measured since 2000.”
And that’s not all. The Harvard poll was released the same day as a Washington Post/ABC News poll in which the president’s approval rating sank to a new low of 41 percent, down from 46 percent in the first three months of the year. Only 42 percent approve his handling of the economy, 37 percent approve of how he is handling the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and 34 percent approve of how he has handled the worsening situation in Ukraine and Russia. A president’s poor approval rating in a midterm year usually augurs poor performance at the ballot box for his party.
Of registered voters polled in the WaPO/ABC News poll, 45 percent said they would vote for the Democratic candidate in House elections this fall, and 44 percent for the Republican candidate. The pollsters said that going by past elections, that close margin should mean troubling news for Democrats. The party held a five-point advantage on this question in a poll taken shortly before they lost control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections.
But it’s not all bad news for Democrats, in the Harvard poll at least: the president’s approval rating among the 18-29 demographic improved by six points over the last six months, rebounding off the lows of the Obamacare website mess to 47 percent.
The Institute of Politics poll of 3,058 18- to 29- year-old U.S. citizens was conducted between March 22 and April 4 with a margin of error of ±1.8 percentage points. The Post/ABC poll was carried out April 24 to 27 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a marging of sampling error of ± 3.5 percentage points.