IOP Poll: Youth Approve Obama, Fret About Economy

Despite the political stalemates in recent months, young Americans’ approval of President Barack Obama has held steady since November, according to a poll released yesterday by the Institute of Politics.

The online poll, which surveyed 3,117 18 to 29-year-olds during February, found that young Americans are most concerned with the economy and their personal financial situation.

Results showed that 56 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 approve of Obama’s overall performance, in comparison to a 58 percent approval rating last fall.

However, a majority of young Americans still disapprove of Obama’s handling of specific issues, including health care, the economy, and Afghanistan, with approval ratings ranging from 40 to 46 percent.

“Leading up to and into the 2008 elections, millenials were up in the clouds with their approval of Obama,” said Eric Lu ’12, a leader of the polling committee, referring to the current young adult population. “Millenials were considered an outlier, but recently they seem to be falling into line with mainstream America.”

Nearly half of all four-year undergraduates worry about their ability to stay in school, and 60 percent of those surveyed are concerned about paying their bills, the poll found.

“The decades-old concept that each generation of young people will grow up to be better off than the next one is being questioned,” said IOP Director Bill Purcell.

The poll also found that the slow economy has shifted momentum away from the Democrats in the lead-up to the midterm elections.

Harvard College Democrats President Jason Q. Berkenfeld ’11 said that he has seen this change in the wake of Mass.  Senator Scott P. Brown’s election and the gridlock in healthcare reform.

“But there’s a difference between being enthusiastic and wanting to engage and acting on it,” Berkenfeld said. “At the end of the day, the Democrats are used to turning out college students and getting college students involved.”

The survey also found an increase in the number of young people moving away from the two parties, with 40 percent identifying as independents.

“Even over the last two months, we’ve seen the percentage of independents increase significantly,” said John D. Della Volpe, the IOP’s Director of Polling. “Half of this generation falls pretty neatly within pretty traditional labels.”

—Eric P. Newcomer contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at sgarlock@college.harvard.edu.

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