While they may not exactly be flocking to Republicans, young voters, perhaps better known as “millennials,” are beginning to express signs of dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
In a column last week, Charlie Cook, one of the best political analysts in the business, noted the results of a recent survey of these voters which shows significant disapproval ratings for President Obama on hot-button issues and a healthy skepticism of government:
President Obama carried the 18-to-29-year-old voting bloc by 34 points in 2008 and by 23 points last year. But a new national survey of millennial voters conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics suggests this emerging generation might not be as locked into the Democratic camp as conventional wisdom suggests, and that young voters exhibit some of the same stark partisan divides as older Americans.
In the study of 3,013 millennials, conducted online by GfK, Obama’s job approval was at 52 percent, with a disapproval rate of 46 percent (the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 percentage points). That is only slightly better than the Huffington Post/Pollster.com averages and the RealClearPolitics.com averages of all national polls among Americans over 18 years of age, both of which show 48 percent approval and 47 percent disapproval.
On specific issues, the younger voters gave far less favorable assessments of the president’s job than of his overall performance. For his handling of both gun violence and the economy, Obama won only 42 percent approval, with 56 percent disapproval. Just 36 percent approved, and 62 percent disapproved, of his handling of the federal budget deficit; on health care, 45 percent approved and 53 percent disapproved. The president’s policy toward Iran yielded a closer but still negative verdict, with 47 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving. The 52 percent overall approval rate suggests that the Obama brand is moderately popular, but when it comes down to specific performance, assessments—even among this group considered a part of his base—are tepid.
While millennials aren’t antigovernment per se, they are very skeptical about government’s ability to effectively deal with problems. Quite simply, in their lifetimes, they have not seen government work effectively or responsively. For the most part, they don’t expect to receive the same benefits, such as Social Security, as their parents and grandparents. Their cynicism about leaders is high and getting higher.
As mentioned, this doesn’t mean that they’re flocking to Republicans, whose views on social issues are rejected out of hand by most young voters. But it does provide the GOP with an opportunity to educate them on the damage President Obama’s policies are doing to their future. Policies like the deficit, ObamaCare, and increasing regulations, which will have near-term consequences are issues that Republicans should use to message.
For example, ObamaCare is causing insurance premiums to rise, but young people are disproportionately affected by it. A study released in December should that they could see a 42% premium hike due to the age-rating restrictions which were approved by the law.
New numbers from a poll conducted by the Young America’s Foundation shows that a free market message — one that would presumably be pushed by Republicans — is appealing to these voters:
The poll, released Wednesday by the Young America’s Foundation and conducted by The Polling Company, found that a whopping 61 percent of millennials disagree that the government should take a more active role in their day-to-day lives and 58 percent think elected officials should decrease taxes.
That certainly bodes well for the future of the Republican Party.
Seventy-percent of young people think the government should cut spending and 50 percent of young people think the federal government is hurting the economy compared to the 26 percent who think it’s helping.
Entrepreneurship and limited government were also popular topics among young people. Sixty-six percent of millennials view entrepreneurship positively and 35 percent of the youth view limited government favorably compared to the 21 percent who don’t. Conservatives need to highlight topics like entrepreneurship to encourage young people to join the movement.
In addition, 44 percent of young people favor free markets compared to the mere eight percent who don’t. But young people were split on whether the free market was fair to women and the majority found it was unfair to the LGTBQ community. Conservatives need to explain why the free market truly benefits all, if they’re going to win the support of the youth.
Republicans have a lot of work to do to further their appeal, but they can begin to start closing the gap with this important voting bloc. They know this. All they need to do is try and those efforts need to start sooner, rather than later.