Young voters are overwhelmingly opposed to current Bush administration policies, and they are expected to express those views in record numbers on election day, according to a new national poll released by the Institute of Politics (IOP) yesterday in Washington, D.C.
The IOP poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3 percent, predicted the highest voter turnout in twenty years for voters between the ages of 18 and 24.
Thirty-two percent of the 18 to 24 year olds surveyed said that they will “definitely be voting.”
If the IOP’s prediction proves true, young voters could set a new midterm turnout record. In 1982, 26 percent of 18 to 24 year olds voted in that year’s midterm election.
Krister B. Anderson ’07, survey chair at the IOP, said that world events have made students more politically aware in recent years.
“Before 9/11 they didn’t see politics as mattering in their lives. Now, they are still cynical, but students recognize how important government is, and they become more engaged than they would have been.”
In this year’s close election, young voter turnout is expected to play a large role in determining close races.
“It should send a signal not just to the Bush administration but to elected officials everywhere that in close elections like the one we are expecting this fall that the youth voter can make a difference in this election,” said Jeanne Shaheen, the director of the IOP and a former governor of New Hampshire.
While acknowledging that in the past, youth turnout has been significantly lower than what is presently indicated by the poll, Shaheen said that “even if there is some drop-off, there will still be an increase in what we have seen young people do in past midterm elections.”
According to the poll President Bush was rated an average grade of “C-” on seven key issues: terrorism, education, environment, economy, health care, immigration, and the war in Iraq. His worst mark was a “D+” on the war in Iraq.
David C. King, lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government and the IOP director of research, cautioned against reading too much into the poll, but acknowledged that the results could spell disaster for Republicans on November 7.
“Any president needs to trust the general and trust the diplomats. Public opinion in terms of military strategy, is not very important,” he said. “But political reality is that the president may lose republican control of the House and perhaps even the Senate.”
Democratic student leaders said last night that the new IOP poll confirms that students are dissatisfied with the current administration and Republican policies.
“[The poll] is very good news,” said Harvard College Democrats President Eric P. Lesser ’07. “I smiled when I saw it. It reinforces what I constantly hear everyday when I talk about politics with students.”
But student Republicans said people should not attach too much significance to the poll.
“You should always make sure that you are looking at as many polls as possible,” said Harvard Republican Club Vice President Mark A. Shepard ’08. “One poll is not indicative of the broader election.”
Marking an expansion in the scope of analysis, the IOP, for the first time, examined the political views of both young adults who attend four-year universities or colleges and those who do not. According to the poll, of young adults attending college, 38 percent considered themselves politically active. Of those not attending college, 34 percent described themselves in the same way.
“We were expecting there to be big differences,” said King.
The online poll, which surveyed 2,546 U.S. citizens, was administered between October 4 and October 16, 2006.