Young adults are the foundation upon which Barack Obama’s presidency rests.
We are the age group that devoted countless man-hours to making a little-known junior senator from Illinois into an unmatched political force. We knocked on doors, we made phone calls, we set up clubs, you name it, we did it. Our votes also carried him into office. Barack Obama won 5 million more votes than Gov. Mitt Romney among voters under the age of 30, more than enough to offset the 2 million-vote advantage Romney had in other age groups.
And now, the success of his chief policy accomplishment, known colloquially as Obamacare, is contingent upon young adults’ decision to purchase more health insurance than they may otherwise need in order to subsidize older, sicker generations.
But after years of investing in President Obama, only to see disappointing returns, young adults seemingly boundless patience is running out. That sentiment is evident in a new survey released by the Harvard Institute of Politics’ Public Opinion Project, which exists to track the attitudes of young Americans toward politics.
This semester’s survey finds that young adults are growing increasingly disillusioned with President Obama, the U.S. political system in general, and with their own hopes for a prosperous future.
“Young Americans hold the president, Congress and the federal government in less esteem almost by the day, and the level of engagement they are having in politics are also on the decline,” write the authors of the poll. “Millennials are losing touch with government and its programs because they believe government is losing touch with them.”
That disenchantment is evident in President Obama’s plummeting approval among young adults. The Institute’s survey reveals that only 41 percent of 18- to 29-year olds approved of Obama’s performance as president, while 54 percent disapproved. That is a steep fall from April when a majority—52 percent—approved of Obama.
That disapproval carries through to President Obama’s job performance on some of the most important issues of his term. On health care issues young adults’ give Obama a 34 percent approval rating, down nine points since the spring. Things are slightly worse on the economy, where Obama’s approval rating is down nine points to 33 percent. Finally, a mere 28 percent of young American’s approve of the president’s job performance on handling the federal deficit, an eight percent drop since the last poll.
It’s one thing to say that you disapprove of President Obama and the actions he’s taken on a handful of major issue areas. It’s quite another to say that his performance has been so bad that he should no longer be president. And yet, in a stunning example of just how far and how fast President Obama has fallen in the eyes of youths, the poll revealed that 52 percent of voters under the age of 25 would throw the president out of office, if they could. In addition, 17 percent of those who voted for President Obama in 2012 said they would not support if him they were allowed to recast their vote.
This stunning shift comes as little surprise given the utter lack of faith young adults have in the nation’s future. Sadly, the survey found that less than one-in-five (14 percent) of young Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction, while a near-majority (49%) believe it is headed in the wrong direction.
The Harvard poll indicates that Democrats have a big problem. It’s a problem that isn’t limited to simply fixing the Obama Administration’s stance on a particular issue or changing up their messaging angles. It’s a problem of trying to convince an entire generation of Americans that the federal government can solve problems, when all they have known is unmet expectations and failure. But where Democrats have a big problem, Republicans have a big opportunity. It is incumbent upon us to seize it.