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What Issues Do Young Voters Care About?

August 1, 2012 | Karin

USA Today has an article out on the likely generation gap in the upcoming election, A defining gap: Seniors for Romney, Millennials for Obama. The lead graphic sums up the poll findings on the difference in favored candidates between seniors and Milliennials:

Jack Ireton-Hewitt, 74, volunteers on behalf of Mitt Romney and likes his business background. “That’s the kind of guy we need as president today,” he says.

Alaysha Claiborne, 18, supports President Obama. “His personal story is very diverse, and my generation, we pride ourselves on our diversity.”

The article headline isn’t much of a surprise. People 65 and older support Mitt Romney, while those under 30 are more likely to support Barack Obama. There is an 18-percentage-point difference, which is one of the biggest demographic divides in this election.

These two groups have different top issues and favor different candidates. According to the poll, there is a notable difference in views of the role of government:

Two-thirds of seniors say the government is trying to do too much that would be better left to businesses and individuals; about one in four say the government is doing too little to solve the country’s problems. Among those younger than 30, the divide is much closer, 52%-47%, between those who say the government is doing too much or too little.

Millennials are more likely to see the government as the solution than seniors. At the same time, the top-ranked issue for those 18 to 29 years old is creating good jobs, but is only sixth among those 65 and older. One of the top issues for seniors is the stability of Social Security and Medicare.

A large segment of Milliennials think the government could be doing more and that we need more jobs in this country, and this informs their support of President Obama. Yet, the job market is tough for Millennials. Government data last year found 53.6 percent of people under age 25 with a bachelor’s degree — about 1.5 million people — were unemployed or underemployed, which is the highest percentage in more than a decade. Based on the latest jobs numbers, approximately one in eight Americans age 18 to 29 is unemployed.

Obama won the youth vote 2-1 in the 2008 presidential election, so his support does not seem to have changed much thus far. It will be interesting to see how the economy impacts this election among young voters.

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