Young Americans--a key voting bloc for Barack Obama in 2008-- currently predict the president will lose his re-election bid next year, according to a new poll of so-called millennials conducted by Harvard's Institute of Politics, and just a small number now believe the country is headed in the right direction.
Among 18-to-29-year-olds surveyed Nov. 23- Dec. 3, just 12 percent believe the country is "headed in the right direction" and 52 percent indicated that things are "off on the wrong track." Both those numbers represent declines from February's figures when 20 percent of millennials polled said that things were moving in the right direction, while 39 percent said they were heading in the wrong direction. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.
That pessimism correlates with lackluster support for the president in the age demographic. Thirty-six percent of millennials believe President Obama will lose re-election and just 30 percent believe he will win. Another 32 percent percent said they were unsure.
Reporters on a conference call Thursday morning asked Harvard Institute of Politics staff if young American adults are feeling much political enthusiasm for anything. "The short answer is no," Trey Grayson, Director of the Institute, replied.
Millennials gave the president his lowest job approval rating since the Institute began polling his administration in the fall of 2009--46 percent approval in the current survey, down 9 percentage points from February. Fifty-one percent of young people surveyed now say they disapprove of the president's job performance.
Still, young voters--a key constituency in Obama's 2008 presidential victory--don't seem to be sold on the 2012 GOP field, either. The president leads a generic Republican by 6 percentage points in the poll (35 to 29 percent), and leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 11 points (37 to 26 percent) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry each by 16 percentage points (39 to 23 percent).
Grayson cautioned that "the fact that [young people are] souring on the president doesn't necessarily translate into good news" for his opponents.
Institute staff suggested Thursday that young people who identify with either party but are disenchanted with the general 2012 field might be drawn to support Texas Rep. Ron Paul, due to the "passion" surrounding his campaign.
Meanwhile, if the president and Democratic leaders plan to use the Occupy Wall Street movement to stimulate young voters, the poll shows that strategy isn't likely to gain traction.
When asked, just 21 percent of millennials said they support the Occupy movement and 33 percent said they were unsupportive. Another 46 percent said they were unsure or refused to answer the question.
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