Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Senator Barack Obama are first choice among 18-24 year-olds for President in 2008 according to the Harvard Institute of Politics 12th Biannual Youth Survey on Politics and Public Service. Young people who said they were most likely to vote in a Republican caucus or primary placed Senator John McCain as a second choice and Governor Mitt Romney in third. In contrast, Democrat young people placed Senator Hilary Clinton in second, and in third place Senator John Edwards.
Poll results also show that President Bush’s approval rating continues to drop with the 18-24 year-old age group, less then 31% say they approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as President, and nearly 59% say the country is on the “wrong track”. Young Republicans are also voicing the same opinion with 39% agreeing that the country is “off on the wrong track”.
So what is the number one issue on the minds of young voters? Fifty percent answered the open- ended question by saying “Iraq” (29%), “the War” (14%), the “War on Terror” (4%), or “domestic security” (3%). After these issues, there is no other single issue that gained more than 6 percent of the vote.
When asked the question, “What should the United States do now?” about the situation in Iraq, nearly six in ten (58%) 18-24 year-olds favor either decreasing the U.S. troops (29%) or removing them all from the country (29%). Two in ten young people favor increasing the troops (11%) or maintaining current troop levels (9%) in Iraq.
Nearly 17% of 18-24 year-olds answered the multiple choice question, “Which of the following do you think should be the next foreign policy priority for President Bush?” by choosing the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The surveyors of the study said they included the question to see the relative importance of Darfur compared to other foreign policies. Stabilizing Iraq is clearly the dominant issue across the board, ranking number one, but Darfur placed second above fighting the war on terror, dealing with China as growing superpower, relations with Israel, and Iran’s nuclear energy program.
But not all issues on young people’s minds pertain to foreign policy. Fifty-three percent of young people polled said religious values should NOT play a more important role in government. Meanwhile, 60% of the same group said they are concerned about the moral direction of the country.
Much has changed in the process of politics and young Americans since Harvard first conducted this study back in 2000. Seven years ago there was a cycle of record low turn-out at the voting booths and a “major disconnect between young Americans and the political process,” the IOP study reports.
In the past, “young people are remarkably cynical about politics,” said David King, Director of Research at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. But things are changing, he claims. “Young people helped propel Jim Webb (VA) and John Tester (MT) into the Senate. It’s crystal clear when you look at the data… they won because of the youth vote.”
In the last seven years young people have witnessed 9/11, the beginning of the war in Iraq, threats of global warming, all of which has engaged a lot more young people to get involved and participate in the political process. Voter turnout among 18-24 year-olds in the United States has grown around 31%, from 36% in the 2000 presidential election to 47% in the 2004 election.
The IOP survey was completed by polling 2,923 18-24 year-olds with an online questionnaire. To make sure the final result totals are representative of the overall 18-24 year-old population, 1,440 of the 2,923 were current college undergraduates and 1,483 were not currently enrolled in a four-year college.
Other interesting demographics of those polled include: 51% male, 49% female; 64% white, 17% Hispanic, 13% Black; 37% say that religion is a very important part of their life; 75% say they are registered to vote; 35% consider themselves Democrat, 24% Republican and 40% Independent; 89% own a cell phone; 64% have a MySpace account and 75% of college students have a Facebook account.
The study was conducted using Harris Interactive, the 12th largest and fastest growing market research firm in the world. The poll was fielded between March 8 and March 26, 2007 and has a sampling error of +/3 percentage points.
Wendy Cook is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.