As the presidential election nears, the voice of potential voters is becoming louder and clearer — at least according to polls. Before the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates take to their respective platforms, the Harvard University Institute of Politics gave young, potential voters their own platform to voice their concerns about American politics and issues.
The group conducted its 21st edition of the Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Towards Politics and Public Service, which interviewed 3,096 participants between the ages of 18-29.
The survey found the approval ratings for President Barack Obama, Democrats, and Republicans have declined by an average of 8% since November 2009 to March 2012, with Republicans leading the way with a 10% decrease to 25%. Obama’s approval rating stands at 52% after a 6% drop, and Democrats are 39% after dropping 9%.
Nationwide there has been an average approval decline of 7.75% for Obama, with the Northeast region falling from 66% in November 2009 to 51%. The survey reported only 20% feel the nation is moving in the right direction and that 43% feel it is moving in the wrong direction.
Although the president’s overall approval has declined over the years, his approval rates on several issues have increased. His approval for decisions in Afghanistan moved to 50% from 41%; Iran moved to 48% from 42%; and Health Care slightly moved 45% from 44%. The most important topics, however, saw decreases in approval: the economy fell to 41% from 44%; and the federal budget deficit slightly dropped to 36% from 38%. Currently, 54% consider the economy the nation’s top priority, compared to 74% from the fall 2011 survey.
The survey polled 20 different issues with trade-offs between two priorities. Jobs and the unemployment rate was considered the most important at 77%; followed by the federal budget deficit (62%); health care (61%); the tax burden on citizens (60%); and creating a better education system (60%). Although the deficit placed second, it was considered less important in head-to-head selection against health care and education.
The reason for the declining approval ratings for all politicians can be traced to how these young voters feel about politicians in general. Fifty-nine percent of the participants indicated they feel politicians are motivated by selfish reasons and 55% believed politicians do not have the same priorities as they do. Only 15% considered elected officials capable of meeting the challenges that face the country.
Of the major US government institutions, only the military was given a majority vote (55%) to be trusted to do the right thing all or most of the time. The US Supreme Court was second at 45%, followed by the President at 41%. Wall Street (13%) was the least trusted, right below Congress (23%).
The Republicans seem to be the group that has taken the largest drawback in approval. The survey conducted in the fall of 2011 showed the young participants preferred Obama (37%) over Romney (26%), but over the course of a few months, Obama currently stands at 43%, while Romney remains at 26%. Thirty percent of the participants indicted they are undecided in who they prefer.
“Millennials have clearly shown that they are a generation deeply cares about our country, their role in it – and feel that the political system as represented by both parties has not effectively engaged them on the issues that will shape their, and our nation’s future,” the survey’s authors stated.
-Dustin Bass, @dbass_cmn
Photo:President Barack Obama appeared on Jimmy Fallon's show. White House image.