WASHINGTON — Young voters were once one of the pillars of President Obama’s coalition, but the latest national survey of Millennials shows that young voters have soured on the president, are more likely to vote Republican in the midterm elections and are in play for 2016.
“In contrast to where we were four years ago, the Millennial vote is very much up for grabs politically,” said John Della Volpe, the polling director for Harvard’s Institute of Politics. IOP has conducted 26 surveys tracking Millennial opinions since 2000.
Millennials are on track to vote by about the same margins they did in the 2010 midterm elections, with 26% forecast as very likely to vote on Nov. 4. A majority of those likely young voters said they prefer a Republican-led Congress, 51%-47%, in contrast to 2010 when a clear majority, 55%-43%, preferred a Democratic-led Congress, a significant swing in favor of the GOP.
One takeaway from the poll: Young people who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 are more likely to show up on Election Day than young people who cast a ballot for Obama.
“Young people, Millennials, are no longer the political outlier that they once were,” said Della Volpe, meaning their high margins of support for Democrats under Obama has dwindled and young voters have returned to more of a swing voting bloc.
It doesn’t mean that young voters, defined as 18- to 29-year-olds in this survey, are becoming more Republican, they are just less Democratic in 2014. The shift suggests that young voters are persuadable and more reflective of the nation at large.
For instance, Millennials approval rating of Obama has fallen to 43% — which mirrors his standing nationally — and they also heavily disapprove of Republicans in Congress at 23%, which also mirrors national sentiment.
The latest survey also found that:
- While Millennials are often cast as a “post-racial” generation, political divisions fall just as hard along racial lines when it comes to Obama. Among white voters, Obama’s approval is 31%, compared to 78% among African Americans, and 49% among Hispanics.
- Young Republicans are more excited about the midterms than young Democrats, 42%-30%.
- Obama has seen the most dramatic decline in support from young Hispanics. In Nov. 2009 his approval rating was 81% compared to 49% approval today. Failure to pass comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation is likely a factor.
- When it comes to social media, white Millennials are more likely to use Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest while African Americans are more likely than whites to prefer Instagram and Twitter.
While their low participation rates in midterm elections suggests political apathy, Della Volpe said that Millennials are very likely to engage in their communities, just not at the ballot box.
“The overarching thing that I could tell you about this generation that actually ties all the groups together is this commitment of community service, making the country a better place,” he said. More young people will volunteer in 2014 than vote.
“The reason is because they want to see tangible results, and unfortunately what we’ve seen over the last several years is our young people have believed that politics doesn’t have the tangible results that they wish that it did. So therefore they are less likely to be participating,” Della Volpe said.