December 5 2013
Youth Bailing Out Part 1: Millennials Turn on President Obama
Patrice J. Lee
One of the President’s biggest political strengths has been his ability to excite the youth demographic about politics and the future. Tens of millions of enamored youth voters swept him into office and kept him there for a second term. But the thrill may be gone.
New polling from Harvard University finds that over half (54 percent) of 18-29 year olds –referred to as Millennials or Generation Y- disapprove of the job President Barak Obama is doing. Their opinion of him now largely mirrors that of their parents. And even more, a majority of 18-24 year olds would recall the President (and Congress) if given a chance. This doesn’t bode well for this –fast-becoming- lame duck President and the Democratic Party.
Here’s more from Harvard’s Institute of Politics report:
In our survey, which focuses exclusively on young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, these Millennials were only slightly more likely to view President Obama favorably than the general population as a whole. Forty-one percent (41%) of 18- to 29- year olds indicated that they approved of his performance as president, while 54 percent indicated that they disapproved. This is the lowest approval rating we have reported since the beginning of his presidency (December 2011 was 46%) and a drop of 11 percentage points since our last survey was released in April 2013.
A majority of both major age cohorts, 18- to 24- year olds (39% approve, 56% disapprove) and 25- to 29- year olds (43% approve, 53% disapprove), disapprove of the president’s job performance, and his ratings in every subgroup are significantly lower than they were in the Spring of 2013…
The 11-point drop in the president’s approval rating brings him closer in line with Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Slightly more than two-in-five (41%) young Americans under 30 approve of the way President Obama is handling his job, while 35 percent feel the same about Democrats in Congress (down from 40% in the Spring) and 19 percent feel the same about the Republicans in Congress (down from 27%).
What a marked turnabout for cohorts that overwhelmingly supported the President and his message of hope and change. The drop in his job performance appears to hinge on several key issues:
His approval rating for the way that he handled Iran is down 10 percentage points to 37 percent, his performance on health care is down 9 points to 34 percent, his performance on handling the economy is down nine points to 33 percent, and approval of the way he is handling the federal budget deficit is down eight points to 28 percent. While we did not ask about Syria in our Spring survey, currently one-third (33%) of 18- to 29- year olds approve of the president’s job performance on Syria, while 60 percent disapprove.
All of this leads to only one-in-five young Americans believing that the nation is going in the right direction, a significant drop over the past several years. This drop in optimism is especially notable among young women and Black Millennials.
Other interesting trends from this report:
- Among 18-24 year olds: The number of Democrats is dropping precipitously and rising marginally for Republicans. Self-identified Democrats dropped from 43% in 2009 to 31% in 2013 and self-identified Republicans rose from 23% to 25% (including a bump after 9/11) during the same time period.
- Regardless of whether or not they have debt, 57 percent of Millennials under 30 believe that student debt is a major problem for young people in the United States -- and another 22 percent believe it’s a minor problem… Overall, 79 percent say it’s a problem, four percent say it is not a problem.
- Among a series of ideas aimed to reduce the deficit, 18- to 29- year olds chose enacting the “Buffet Rule” (a requirement that people making over $1 million a year pay at least 30% of their income in taxes) 69 percent of the time. The second most popular initiative was reducing food stamp levels to 2008 levels and limiting growth in spending on food stamps to the rate of inflation.
Why are these polling numbers important? For the President to make his signature healthcare legislation work, he needs at least 2.7 million healthy young people to sign up for ObamaCare to cover costs for older and sicker Americans. If it sounds like a pyramid scheme, it is. And this is not missed by the young Americans who do know about and understand it.
What’s next for the President and Millennials? He held a youth summit yesterday, but made little fuss over these numbers. Look for shallow efforts to regain their trust like more White House concerts featuring Top 20 artists and him making the rounds on late night TV shows. He may even appear on MTV as a VJ. Oh but wait! MTV doesn’t play music (or music videos) anymore. Scratch that idea.
I can guarantee that the PR machines at OFA and Enroll America are working overtime to strategize about how to regain the ground lost among young people. Let’s hope they don’t insult young females with more “Got Insurance?” ads.
If nothing else, these polls should send a clear message to the President and all politicians: our vote is not on lockdown.