In a major shift from just four years ago, Millennials who say they are likely to vote next week now lean slightly toward the Republicans and could be a deciding factor in races across the country well into the future, according to a new poll that finds the nation’s 18-to-29-year-olds very much up for grabs politically.
Members of Generation Y said they slightly prefer a Republican Congress by 4 percentage points, according to the poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics and released Wednesday morning.
In 2010, the same group of younger voters preferred Democrats by 12 percentage points, even though Republicans scored major gains that year.
“What we’re showing is an across-the-board trend that indicates that young people are much more up for grabs than they have been at any time in our recent history,” said John Della Volpe, polling director at the Harvard Institute of Politics.
In previous elections Millennials leaned left, but likely younger voters are now less likely to support the Democratic Party, said Mr. Della Volpe.
Millennials still leaned slightly left overall, but younger Democratic voters aren’t as likely to vote due to falling approval ratings of President Obama and the Democratic Party, the pollsters said.
The approval rating of Mr. Obama dipped in every category for Millennials. Less than a third of young whites approve of the job that Mr. Obama is doing in office, and his approval rating from Hispanics dropped below 50 percent. His approval rating among blacks remains high at 78 percent, but even that is lower than it was in previous studies done by the institute. His numbers dipped among males and females on both sides of the political divide in the poll.
Millennials’ approval rating of 43 percent is in line with Mr. Obama’s overall approval rating of 42 percent with all voters, according to the latest Gallup poll.
Long seen as a problem demographic for the GOP, America’s young likely voters “could be a critical swing vote for races across the country,” said Maggie Williams, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics.
Ms. Williams warned political candidates not to ignore Millennials, predicting that they will prove important on the ballots this November and beyond.
The reason for the shift is not necessarily that Millennials are flocking toward the Republican Party, but rather they are not happy with the job the Democrats are doing and aren’t voting.
“The message is that they are less supportive of Democrats, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re more supportive of Republicans,” Mr. Della Volpe said.
Republicans in Congress have an approval rating of 23 percent from Millennials, according to the poll. Young Republicans say they are more likely to vote than young Democrats in the November elections.
The national survey was based off of 2,029 interviews with younger voters aged 18 to 29 between Sept. 26 and Oct. 19. The margin of error was 2.6 percent with a 95 percent confidence level. The questions were provided in both English and Spanish.
The Harvard Institute of Politics has been polling younger voters since 2000.