NY Times: Young Americans Are Leaning Left


Richard Moore

 "They have continued a long-term drift away from the
  Republican Party. And although they are just as worried as
  the general population about the outlook for the country and
  think their generation is likely to be worse off than that
  of their parents, they retain a belief that their votes can
  make a difference, the poll found."

Irrational beliefs have a way of persisting despite all evidence to the 


Original source URL:

June 27, 2007

New Poll Finds That Young Americans Are Leaning Left

Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a 
government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on 
immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York 
Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say 
the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.

The poll offers a snapshot of a group whose energy and idealism have always been
as alluring to politicians as its scattered focus and shifting interests have 
been frustrating. It found that substantially more Americans ages 17 to 29 than 
four years ago are paying attention to the presidential race. But they appeared 
to be really familiar with only two of the candidates, Senators Barack Obama and
Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats.

They have continued a long-term drift away from the Republican Party. And 
although they are just as worried as the general population about the outlook 
for the country and think their generation is likely to be worse off than that 
of their parents, they retain a belief that their votes can make a difference, 
the poll found.

More than half of Americans ages 17 to 29 ‹ 54 percent ‹ say they intend to vote
for a Democrat for president in 2008. They share with the public at large a 
negative view of President Bush, who has a 28 percent approval rating with this 
group, and of the Republican Party. They hold a markedly more positive view of 
Democrats than they do of Republicans.

Among this age group, Mr. Bush¹s job approval rating after the attacks of Sept. 
11 was more than 80 percent. Over the course of the next three years, it drifted
downward leading into the presidential election of 2004, when 4 of 10 young 
Americans said they approved how Mr. Bush was handling his job.

At a time when Democrats have made gains after years in which Republicans have 
dominated Washington, young Americans appear to lean slightly more to the left 
than the general population: 28 percent described themselves as liberal, 
compared with 20 percent of the nation at large. And 27 percent called 
themselves conservative, compared with 32 percent of the general public.

Forty-four percent said they believed that same-sex couples should be permitted 
to get married, compared with 28 percent of the public at large. They are more 
likely than their elders to support the legalization of possession of small 
amounts of marijuana.

The findings on gay marriage were reminiscent of an exit poll on Election Day 
2004: 41 percent of 18-to-29-year-old voters said gay couples should be 
permitted to legally marry, according to the exit poll.

In the current poll, 62 percent said they would support a universal, 
government-sponsored national health care insurance program; 47 percent of the 
general public holds that view. And 30 percent said that ³Americans should 
always welcome new immigrants,² while 24 percent of the general public holds 
that view.

Their views on abortion mirror those of the public at large: 24 percent said it 
should not be permitted at all, while 38 percent said it should be made 
available but with greater restrictions. Thirty-seven percent said it should be 
generally available.

In one potential sign of shifting attitudes, respondents, by overwhelming 
margins, said they believed that the nation was prepared to elect as president a
woman, a black person or someone who admitted to having used marijuana. But they
said that they did not believe Americans would elect someone who had used 
cocaine or someone who was a Mormon.

Mr. Obama has suggested that he used cocaine as a young man. Mitt Romney, the 
former governor of Massachusetts and a candidate for the Republican nomination, 
is a Mormon.

By a 52 to 36 majority, young Americans say that Democrats, rather than 
Republicans, come closer to sharing their moral values, while 58 percent said 
they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, and 38 percent said they had 
a favorable view of Republicans.

Asked if they were enthusiastic about any of the candidates running for 
president, 18 percent named Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and 17 percent named Mrs. 
Clinton, of New York. Those two were followed by Rudolph W. Giuliani, a 
Republican, who was named by just 4 percent of the respondents.

The survey also found that 42 percent of young Americans thought it was likely 
or very likely that the nation would reinstate a military draft over the next 
few years ‹ and two-thirds said they thought the Republican Party was more 
likely to do so. And 87 percent of respondents said they opposed a draft.

But when it came to the war, young Americans were more optimistic about the 
outcome than was the population as whole. Fifty-one percent said the United 
States was very or somewhat likely to succeed in Iraq, compared with 45 percent 
among all adults. Contrary to conventional wisdom, younger Americans have 
historically been more likely than the population as a whole to be supportive of
what a president is doing in a time of war, as they were in Korea and Vietnam, 
polls have shown.

The nationwide telephone poll ‹ a joint effort by The New York Times, CBS News 
and MTV ‹ was conducted from June 15 to June 23. It involved 659 adults ages 17 
to 29. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for 
all respondents.

The Times/CBS News/MTV Poll suggests that younger Americans are conflicted in 
their view of the country. Many have a bleak view about their own future and the
direction the country is heading: 70 percent said the country was on the wrong 
track, while 48 percent said they feared that their generation would be worse 
off than their parents¹. But the survey also found that this generation of 
Americans is not cynical: 77 percent said they thought the votes of their 
generation would have a great bearing on who became the next president.

By any measure, the poll suggests that young Americans are anything but 
apathetic about the presidential election. Fifty-eight percent said they were 
paying attention to the campaign. By contrast, at this point in the 2004 
presidential campaign, 35 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were paying a 
lot or some attention to the campaign.

Over the last half century, the youth vote has more often than not gone with the
Democratic candidate for president, though with some notable exceptions. In 
1984, Ronald Reagan won his second term as president by capturing 59 percent of 
the youth vote, according to exit polls, and the first President George Bush won
in 1988 with 52 percent of that vote. This age group, however, has supported 
Democratic presidential candidates in every election since.

The percentage of young voters who identified themselves as Republican grew 
steadily during the Reagan administration, and reached a high of 37 percent in 
1989. That number has declined ever since, and is now at 25 percent.

³I think the Democratic Party is now realizing how big an impact my generation 
has, and they¹re trying to cater to that in some way,² Ashley Robinson, 21, a 
Democrat from Minnesota, said in an interview after she participated in the 
poll. ³But the traditional Republican Party is still trying to get older votes, 
which doesn¹t make sense because there are so many more voters my age. It would 
be sensible to cater to us.²

That a significant number of respondents said they were enthusiastic about just 
two of the candidates ‹ Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton ‹ to a certain extent 
reflects that both candidates have been the subject of a huge amount of national
attention and have presented the country with historic candidacies. Mr. Obama 
would be the first black president and Mrs. Clinton the first woman. Other 
candidates could begin drawing attention from this group as the campaign takes a
higher platform.

More important, though, at least for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama is the 
impression this group has of them. In the poll, 43 percent of respondents said 
they held an unfavorable view of Mrs. Clinton, a number that reflects the tide 
of resistance she faces nationwide. By contrast, only 19 percent said they had 
an unfavorable view of Mr. Obama.

Marjorie Connelly, Marina Stefan and Dalia Sussman contributed reporting.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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