Poll: Young Voters' Approval of Obama Low

President Barack Obama’s approval rating among 18- to 29-year-olds has dropped to an all-time low of 46 percent, according to a study by the Institute of Politics released Thursday.

The study, which surveyed 2,028 young people, found that only 12 percent of those asked believed that the U.S. is headed in the right direction, while 52 percent responded that the nation is on the wrong track.

“Young Americans are upset by the current political process at the moment,” said IOP Director of Polling John Della Volpe. “Young people want to help the country, but they don’t think that engaging in the current political system is the best way to do that. It looks a lot like the survey data from 2000.”

Overall, the polling data showed increased disappointment in Obama, particularly when it came to his handling of the economy. On the topic of jobs and the economy—the number one issue for 74 percent of those polled—Obama’s approval rating has dropped 12 points since 2009 and currently rests at 32 percent, according to the survey.

Yet the study found that increased negativity toward the President will not necessarily help the Republican nominee in November. Obama now leads a generic Republican candidate by six percent in the poll, after the IOP found that he was in a statistical dead heat with a generic option a year ago. And Obama does even better against specific candidates.

Among the youth surveyed, Obama leads Mitt Romney by 11 points, Newt Gingrich by 16, and Rick Perry by 16. But despite these numbers, 36 percent of the young voters believed that Obama will lose his re-election bid, compared to 30 percent who claimed that he would win.

“The fact that they are souring on the president doesn’t necessarily translate to good news for Republicans,” Della Volpe said. “It seems to us ... that they are almost in a punishment zone. It’s not that they are going to vote for Republicans in significant numbers, but just that they may not help organize or be enthusiastic come November. This may be a warning sign.”

The IOP poll also asked for young people’s opinions about the recent Occupy protests. It found that 21 percent of young Americans supported the movement, while 33 percent said they did not support it. Sixteen percent of respondents believe the movement will change economic policy in the United States.

Only two percent of respondents said they had personally participated in the protests.

“[Young people] might be disappointed in Obama or Congress, but maybe that disappointment isn’t deep enough to go down even an hour or two to these movements,” IOP Director C. M. Trey Grayson ’94 said. “The survey shows disappointment, but I wouldn’t call it anger.”

Della Volpe added that two percent is actually a relatively high level of participation.

“You have to remember that less than 50 percent of young people vote. The fact that two percent are actively supporting this movement, that isn’t that small of a number.”

—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at jacobfeldman@college.harvard.edu.

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