Still, young voters are more likely to believe that government is better able to improve the economy than private-sector businesses, by a 49-43 margin. And they remain, on the whole, optimistic — nearly six in 10 said the economy would improve in the next year, far outpacing national averages.

Young voters also believe that democrats will do the better job of protecting Social Security, by a 50-26 percent margin.

“The survey shows that while there is general optimism for the future and support for the President among young people,” said Jason Johnson, who is heading up the Garfield Institute Young Voters project, in a statement. “It also shows that when asked about specifics on the economy and jobs, Romney and the Republicans have made significant gains.”

On Thursday, the president looked to improve on his strength with young voters in an appeal to Congress to prevent student loan rates from doubling at the end of the month when an interest rate break expires.

“This issue didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s been looming for months. But we’ve been stuck watching Congress play chicken with another deadline,” Obama said. “I understand that members of both parties say they want to get this done and there are conversations taking place, but they haven’t done it yet. And we’ve got to keep the pressure on.”