Poll: Dems face midterm enthusiasm gap with young voters

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Democrats are facing an enthusiasm gap with young Americans, according to a new survey of millennials, a result that echoes surveys of the wider national population.

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The poll, conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics, shows 44 percent of 2012 Mitt Romney voters aged 18-29 saying they’ll definitely vote this fall, and 35 percent of 2012 Barack Obama voters saying the same.

National polling has shown Republican voters across the board are consistently more enthusiastic about voting this cycle, which is bad news for Democrats as they brace for an expected steep turnout drop-off in November that could complicate their chances of keeping the Senate and would make it difficult to pick up seats in the House.

Low enthusiasm among young voters is particularly troubling, as they’ve been part of the Democratic base coalition that has helped drive the party to wins in the past two presidential elections.

Overall, however, the youth vote is unlikely to drive the outcome of the midterms. Less than 1 in 4 millennials polled plans to turn out this cycle, according to the new survey — a drop of 11 percent from November, and even lower than the 31 percent who said they’d vote in February 2010.

That’s in part because millennials are disillusioned with public institutions and politics overall. Nearly half of respondents said that politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges the country is facing, and 58 percent said elected officials don’t have the same priorities they have.

And millennial trust in nearly all public institutions is at a five-year low, with trust in Congress at just 14 percent and trust in the president at 32 percent.

Still, President Obama’s job approval rating has actually improved six percentage points from his 41 percent approval in the IOP’s last millennial survey, conducted in November. That’s despite an all-time low approval rating for Obama in a new nationwide survey out Tuesday from The Washington Post and ABC News.

But young Americans widely oppose his signature legislative achievement, with 56 percent saying they disapprove of the Affordable Care Act to 39 percent who approve, and a plurality, 44 percent, say they believe their coverage will get worse under the law. Those numbers stay about the same when the law is referred to as ObamaCare.

Looking toward 2016, potential presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seen favorably by 52 percent of millennials, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), another possible contender, is seen favorably by only 21 percent of young Americans. Forty-three percent of respondents said their opinion of Christie had gotten worse over the past year, as he’s grappled with an ongoing scandal that’s rocked his administration.

The survey was conducted among 2,089 18-29-year-olds via an online survey from March 22-April 4, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.