Politics & Government
4:58 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Poll: Fewer Millennials Say They'll Vote In Midterm Elections

An 1899 Russel-Morgan Print of a Tramp smoking cigar with cane over arm.
Credit Library of Congress

To paraphrase James Carville, it’s still the student debt, stupid.

Across party and ideological lines, a staggering 79 percent of 18- to 29-year olds surveyed last fall by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics believe that student debt is a major problem in the U.S.

That still towers above even the institute's latest findings released Tuesday in its latest survey of young Americans and their political attitudes.

Garnering far less support — but maybe more sleepless nights for those in D.C. — was voting in the upcoming midterm elections this November. Less than one-in-four young people surveyed said they’ll “definitely be voting” — an 11-point drop from only five months ago. And with enthusiasm higher among young Republicans voters, even more obstacles could be in store for President Barack Obama and Democrats. It was just yesterday that a Washington Post/ABC News poll found the president’s approval rating at its lowest and most voters saying they prefer Republicans in charge of Congress.

The president did fare somewhat better among young voters. His approval rating in the Harvard survey went up six points to 47 percent. Interestingly, part of that can be credited to an small uptick in support from young Republicans and Independents.

Young people gave Obama his highest marks for his job on climate change. When it comes to arguably his biggest legislative accomplishment, health care, the news is also a little better (rebounding five points to a 39 percent approval rating), but still trails the level of support he had on the issue a year ago.

In Congress, both Republicans and Democrats saw a slight increase in their approval from October’s survey.

Besides student loans, the other great uniter of young Americans appeared to be a lack of trust. The level of trust in the president, Congress and institutions such as the military and U.S. Supreme Court continued to decline; none garnered approval above 50 percent (although at 24 percent, the NSA may take solace that it has a higher approval rating among young people than Congress, Wall Street and the media).

So, besides student loans, what else might drive more young people to vote? If you guessed marijuana, that guess would likely go up in smoke. The survey couldn't determine whether marijuana would be a major force in increasing young voter turnout. Only one-in-four young people polled said they're more likely to vote if legalizing marijuana was on the ballot.

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