Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rising Youth Disenchantment: Political Impact

Seldom does a university-run opinion poll garner the media attention accorded the Harvard Institute of Politics’ (IOP) recent look at youth political attitudes (IOP’s poll is of all youth, not just Harvard types). IOP found that a mere 22% of under-30 Americans would definitely or probably enroll in Obamacare when they become eligible, while 45% will probably or definitely not enroll. Asked how they viewed Obamacare, only 38% of these young Americans approved, 57% disapproved.

These results are stunning, but perhaps not unexpected. Why shouldn’t young people balk at a program that seems to offer few or no benefits at an unacceptable cost?

The IOP poll further surprised with numbers on how far Barack Obama’s popularity has fallen among youth. Only 41% approve of the job he’s doing, as against 54% who disapprove. Among those under 25, the figures are even worse: just 39% approve, with 56% disapproving. It's well-known that young people are a key part of Obama’s political base. Or so they were.

The IOP poll results contained other disturbing details for Obamacare supporters:
  • asked if the quality of health care would be better, worse, or the same with Obamacare, only 18% said better, 40% said worse, and 37% the same. 
  • asked if health care costs would increase, decrease, or stay the same with Obamacare, 51% said increase, 11% said decrease, and 34% said stay the same. 
  • young people are more worried about student debt, with 57% calling it a major problem, 22% minor, and a mere 4% saying it was not a problem. 
In the poll’s single finding that should most unsettle the White House, 52% of youth under 25 would recall Barack Obama from office, if given the chance.

In spite of the poll's startling findings, the IOP provided it a cliche-like, safely nonpartisan conclusion:
young Americans . . . are sending a message to those in power that for them to re-engage in government and politics, the political process must be open, collaborative and have the opportunity for impact -- and not one that simply perpetuates well-worn single issue agendas.
Hmmm. We had earlier evidence of youth discontent with the political choices progressives were offering them. Michael Barone, in the conservative Washington Examiner, wrote about slippage of young people support for Democrats--specifically Clinton pal Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election, where Obamacare didn’t become an issue until campaign’s end:
The Virginia exit poll showed voters ages 18 to 29 favoring McAuliffe over Cuccinelli by a 45% to 40% margin. The “Rock the Vote” [progressives] sent out an email crowing about this, but put in context, it’s a dismal result. The 30-to-44-year-olds were much more strongly for McAuliffe (56% to 37%), providing some evidence . . .that young people just entering the electorate are less liberal than those who did so in 2008. In comparison, the 2012 presidential exit poll showed Obama leading Romney 61% to 36% among that age group in Virginia--statistically indistinguishable from Obama's 60% to 37% margin among 18-to-29-year-olds nationally, which was down from 66% to 32% in 2008.
The youth vote is volatile. But the IOP poll suggests Obamacare may fail to enroll enough youth to finance improved healthcare for seniors.

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