Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney trails President Obama by nearly 20 percentage points among young people, but the GOP candidate’s supporters are more likely to show up in November, according to a new poll released Wednesday by the Harvard Institute of Politics.
Among 18- to 29-year-old likely voters, 55 percent say they support Mr. Obama, and only 36 percent support Mr. Romney — putting the president up 2 points from a similar poll taken in April. Voter enthusiasm is in the challenger’s corner, however, with 65 percent of those who favor Mr. Romney saying they will “definitely” vote in the fall, compared with 55 percent for Mr. Obama.
Youth turnout across the board will be significantly less than it was in 2008, with only 48 percent of millennials saying they definitely will vote in November. There is a theme of frustration and disillusionment among young voters, with nearly half of those not likely to vote saying they believe Washington is broken no matter who wins the election. Fewer than one in five said they believe that political engagement is a more effective way to help the nation than volunteering in their community.
Some 59 percent of young black voters say they definitely will vote, compared with 54 percent of whites. Of potential concern to Mr. Obama’s campaign: Only 31 percent of young Hispanics say they definitely plan to vote.
The survey found that the younger the voter, the more likely he or she is to be conservative. Mr. Obama had only a 12-point lead among 18- to 24-year-olds, but support jumped to 23 points among those ages 25 to 29.
In a conference call discussing the results of the poll, Trey Grayson, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, and John Della Volpe, polling director, said Mr. Obama’s success with young people is largely a result of his shared worldview and sense of connection. Mr. Romney, they said, may have missed an opportunity to cut into the president’s support when the economy was still struggling mightily a year ago.
“It’s difficult to typecast this generation,” Mr. Della Volpe said. “I would consider them to be fiercely independent. They were the first to support and approve [President George W.] Bush after 9/11. A year ago, Obama was at 50 percent. Republicans had an opportunity to seize that moment of doubt.”
The Harvard Institute of Politics conducted 2,123 interviews from Sept. 19 to Oct. 3 among American citizens ages 18 to 29. The margin of error is 2.1 percentage points.