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Obama’s Support Among Young People Slips as More Say He’ll Lose

By Catherine Dodge
December 15, 2011 1:10 PM EST
Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s approval rating with young Americans who were crucial to his 2008 White House victory has declined to 46 percent, and a greater percentage see the president losing his bid for a second term than winning, a new poll finds.

The poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shows an “overall lack of enthusiasm” today among young voters for the presidential election compared with four years ago, John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director, said during a conference call with reporters.

Thirty-six percent of Americans age 18 to 29 predict that Obama will lose the election next year, while 30 percent say he will win. College students, who gave Obama some of his strongest support in 2008, now give the president a 48 percent approval rating, down from 60 percent in February, according to the poll.

Winning over this bloc is critical for the president. Voters under 30 backed Obama by a ratio of 2-1 in 2008 and volunteered their time to staff phone banks and canvass door-to- door to round up support.

“The opportunity exists for all political parties and campaigns to re-engage this generation,” Trey Grayson, director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, said in a statement. “Those who do can maximize results in 2012.”

Lowest Rating

Obama’s 46 percent approval with young people, down from 55 percent in February, is the lowest since the institute began polling about the administration in 2009. More than half of the respondents said they disapprove of the president’s job performance.

The poll of 2,028 Americans age 18 to 29 was conducted Nov. 23 to Dec. 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for the total sample and plus or minus five percentage points for those identifying themselves as college students.

Congress is also declining in popularity. Approval of Democrats in Congress is at 33 percent, down from 45 percent in February, while Republicans slipped to a 24 percent from 30 percent, the poll found. By a ratio of more than 4-1, young Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction.

Still, the fact that young people are souring on the president doesn’t necessarily translate into good news for whoever emerges as the Republican nominee.

Obama leads in a matchup against a Republican candidate, 35 percent to 29 percent. The president tops former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by 11 percentage points and leads former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by 16 points.

Occupy Wall Street

The poll also found that the Occupy Wall Street movement isn’t catching on with the so-called millennial generation. About 1 in 5 of those polled said they support the movement, compared with 33 percent who don’t. Two-thirds of respondents said they weren’t following the demonstrations closely.

The protests began in New York in September and sparked similar action throughout the country and the world. Targets of participants’ ire include growing income inequality, government bailouts of U.S. banks, and home foreclosures.

“One of the problems of the Occupy protests all along has been they’re really good at diagnosing the problem, but not really coming up or talking about solutions,” Grayson said. “So that may be another reason why there is such a disconnect.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Dodge in Washington at cdodge1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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