CIRCLE 2012 Youth Poll: 52% Support for Obama, 35% for Romney
CIRCLE today released a groundbreaking poll of young people’s views of the election. The survey, commissioned by the Youth Education Fund, is unique in that it polled 1,695 youth (ages 18-29) in June/July and 1,109 of the same youth between October 12 and 23. Surveying the same people twice provides powerful evidence of change over time.
With just eight days until the election, CIRCLE’s new youth poll, commissioned by the Youth Engagement Fund, shows the following:
- The proportion saying they are extremely likely to vote has risen 9.9 points, from 44.7% to 54.6%. Two-thirds (67.3%) of young adults are “very” or “extremely” likely to vote, up 7.1 percentage points since June/July.
- The proportion who are paying attention to the election has also risen, from 56.1% to 71%.
- If the election were held today, President Obama would win the youth vote by 52.1% to 35.1% among those registered voters who are “extremely likely to vote.”
If the election were held today, Obama would win the youth vote by 17 percentage points (52.1% to 35.1%) among those who are registered to vote and “extremely likely to vote,” which was our screen for likely voters. Support for Obama rose more than 7 points among likely voters: up from 44.4% in July. In contrast, a majority (59.7%) said they were either disappointed or angry with Romney – and only 9.4% said they admired him.
Support for Romney is down slightly from 36.9% to 35.1% among likely, registered voters (within the margin of error). Almost 32% think that Ryan is a good choice for VP, but 34% think he is a bad choice (19.5% “very bad”) and 32.5% have no opinion of him. The proportion open to voting for either candidate was 8.8%. Based on an average of national polls, about 5 percent of all likely voters are considered undecided. This slightly higher undecided rate is mainly due to the existence of first-time voters (those 18 to 21).
Obama continues to lead Romney on all aspects of leadership, from sincerity and experience to the likelihood that he will help the economy. The proportion of people who admire or are satisfied with Obama has risen to 54.5% (combined), and the proportion who are disappointed has shrunk slightly from 39% to 36.4%. However, depending on the aspect of leadership, a fifth to a third of young voters think neither candidate meets the definition.
Political Engagement and Attitudes on Issues
he proportion of youth paying attention to the election has risen from 56.1% to 71%. Although a slightly higher percentage of young people reported being contacted by at least one of the campaigns (12.6% in the summer and 15.1% in Mid-October), a vast majority of young people (84.9%) had not been contacted or were unsure if they were contacted. Of those who had been asked to vote, it was more likely to be on behalf of Obama (59.7%) than Romney (32.1%).
In both surveys, we asked young people to pick their top issue. Although we added more options in October, the proportion selecting “jobs and the economy” as the number-one issue actually rose to 37.9%, 26 points ahead of the runner-up issue, which was health care. Given the prominent recent discussion of abortion, it is worth noting that abortion is the top issue for just 3.4% of respondents, including people on both sides of that issue, and with women being twice as concerned as men..
Attitudes about the country and politics have shifted somewhat:
- 31% of young people now feel that the US is headed in the right direction, up from 25.1% in June/July.
- Fewer respondents feel that the government is responsive now.
- Respondents still complain that politicians fail to address the issues that matter to them, but that belief has declined by nine points.
- More young people (an increase of four points) now say that the federal deficit is too big and that the government is too powerful, reflecting a modest shift toward Republican positions on the economy.
- Young people still prefer spending to stimulate the economy over cuts in taxes and spending, as they did in July, but support for tax and spending cuts has risen since the July poll.
- Support for the Affordable Health Care Act has risen by three points, but opposition also rose by 2.5 points, and the largest group remains undecided about the Act.
While the dominant narrative is that youth are “unengaged” or “apathetic,” 72.6% of respondents believe that, as a group, young people have the power to change things in this country. Also, on many of the policy questions in the poll, we saw declines in those who answered “don’t know” or “unsure.” For example, while many respondents still didn’t know how what they thought about the Affordable Health Care Act, the percentage who didn’t know dropped from 41.2% to 35.6% over the three-month period. This was true of many of the other policy-oriented questions.
Research has shown that when they are asked to get involved, young people do engage, and that once they vote, voting become a habit. Those polled in October said that appeals from parents (46.9%) and friends (41.6%, asking in person) would have the most influence on them becoming more likely to vote.
Nearly three quarters of Black youth say it is very likely or extremely likely they will vote in the 2012 Presidential Election, compared to 68.7% of White youth and 56.6% of Hispanic young people. As in CIRCLE’s July poll, there were large variations in candidate support by race and ethnicity. Hispanic youth who are registered and extremely likely voters were swing voters in July but have now largely made up their minds.
Since July, President Obama has gained support from registered, extremely likely young voters, but to a lesser extent from White likely voters compared to Latino or African American likely voters. Between July and October, Romney has lost both African American likely voters (5 percentage point loss), and even more so, Hispanic voters (17 percentage point loss). President Obama gained support (14 percentage points) from young Hispanics since July.
Perceptions of each candidate differed based on race and ethnicity, with Black youth feeling the most enthusiastic about President Obama. Black youth were most likely to say they were “admiring” of him (55.3%), while Hispanic youth were most likely to say they were “satisfied” (44.5%). White Youth were most likely to say that they were “disappointed” with Barack Obama as president (45.0%).
Over 80% of Black youth were either disappointed or angry with Mitt Romney (41.1% disappointed; 40.5% angry), whereas White youth were most likely to be satisfied with him as a candidate (33.8%). Hispanic youth were most likely to be disappointed with Mitt Romney (44.6%). Furthermore, feelings about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan differed greatly between White and Black youth, with 39.3% of White youth feeling that he was a good or excellent choice, and only 12% of Black youth feeling the same.
Campaign Contact and Election Engagement
Young people, regardless of race and ethnicity, were more likely to say they had been paying “some” attention to the upcoming election than they were in June/July. Black and White youth are the most likely to say they pay “some or a lot of attention” to the news (72.9% and 72.4%, respectively), while 66.8% of Hispanic youth said the same. However, Hispanic youth have a strong core of young people who follow the election with 27.7% paying “a lot” of attention (compared to White youth (23.4%) and Black youth (19.4%)).
Hispanic youth were slightly more likely to say that they had been contacted by a campaign (18.0%) compared to White and Black youth (14.5% vs 15.6%, respectively). White, Black and Hispanic youth who were contacted were more likely to have been contacted by the Obama campaign (51.5% White, 95.8% of Black youth and 53.1% of Hispanic youth). Black Youth who were contacted were overwhelmingly reached by Obama’s campaign, whereas White and Hispanic youth were equally contacted by both campaigns.
Across the board, youth were most likely to say that they have been following the election because they feel it is really important. However, Black young people were much more likely to say they are excited about a particular candidate (31.0%) compared to White youth (10.6%) and Hispanic youth (16.3%), and White young people were more likely to say they want change (18.4%) compared to Black youth (8.8%).
Issues and Institutional Support
As in the July poll, there continued to be a racial gap in which subgroups of youth feel that the country is moving in the right direction. Fifty-nine percent of Black youth said that the county is moving in the right direction (this is an increase from the 49.8% in the July poll), whereas 23.6% of White youth said the country is moving in the right direction (17.6% in the July poll). Hispanic youth were the most likely to be unsure about the direction of the country (41.1%).
As in our July poll, “jobs and the economy” was as the number-one issue that both Black and White youth felt politicians should address (43.2% and 37.7% respectively); however, the second most important issue for Black youth was health care (18.1%) and for White youth it was the federal budget deficit (11.6%). For Hispanic youth, jobs and the economy was still the number-one issue (28.4%), but the second most important issue for politicians to address was gas prices (11.2%).
White youth were much more likely to feel that: the government is too big, that corporations have too much power, and that they are more cynical than two years ago, compared to Black youth.
Voter ID Laws
White youth were more likely to know the photo ID laws in their state (36.0%) than Black youth (28.8%) or Hispanic youth (20.9%). Both Black young people (60.5%) and Hispanic young people (53.9%) were more likely to identify early voting laws than White youth (48.3%). Black youth were more likely (21.3%) to know the registration deadline in their state than White youth (11.9%) or Hispanic youth (11.7%)
On Monday, CIRCLE released a groundbreaking poll of young people’s views of the election. The survey, commissioned by the Youth Education Fund, is unique in that it polled 1,695 youth (ages 18-29) in June/July and 1,109 of the same youth between October 12 and 23. Surveying the same people twice provides powerful evidence of change over time.
About 40 percent of young adults do not attend college, and that split (going to college or not) tends to mark significant differences in political engagement. The following is a summary of the poll data, broken down by people with and without any college experience. Overall, young adults did not differ much by education in their preference for President Obama or former Governor Romney, but the non-college youth are less likely to be following the election, less likely to be contacted on behalf of a campaign, less likely to have opinions on policy issues, and less likely to know the voting laws in their own states. The Romney campaign and its supporters appear to have contacted more non-college youth, whereas youth with college backgrounds were more likely to have been contacted on behalf of Obama.
Candidate Support and Ideology
Among youth who are registered and extremely likely to vote, there are no large differences for candidate choice by college experience: 53% of youth without college experience and 52% of youth with college experience said they support Obama. Those numbers are 34% and 36%, respectively, for Romney.
Youth with college experience were more likely to report paying “some or a lot of” attention to the election, compared to youth without college experience (76.9% compared to 63.3%). In general, youth – regardless of educational experience – were most likely to report following the election because they felt that it was really important. However, the next most common reason differed by educational attainment, with 19.3% of youth without college experience reporting that they “want change,” whereas 14.1% of youth with college experience wanted a particular candidate to win.
There were slight differences among youth with and without college experience for questions related to leadership traits among the candidates. Similar to the July poll, youth with college experience were more likely to associate phrases such as “will get things done” with Romney, compared to youth without college experience. Youth with college experience were less likely to think Obama will bring change (30.0%) compared to youth without college experience (40.5%).
Institutional Support and Engagement
Nearly 85% of youth had not been contacted by either campaign. However, youth with college experience were more likely to have been contacted by a political party or campaign, compared to youth without college experience. Overall, youth were contacted more by the Obama campaign, but the gap in the reach by Obama and Romney campaigns was only present among the college-experienced youth. The Obama campaign reached 11.5% of college youth, while Romney’s campaign just reached 3.5% of the college youth. The campaigns had about the same reach among non-college youth, with Obama campaign reaching a total of 5.8% and Romney campaign reaching 6.6% of non-college youth.
Youth without college experience are slightly more likely to say that they would be somewhat or very likely to participate if they were given the opportunity to participate in a campaign (19.6%) compared to youth with college experience (15.1%).
Youth, in general, are frustrated with the amount of money in political campaigns, and there is evidence that it impacts their feelings about voting. 40.9% of the young people in our poll “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed that the amount of money in political campaigns is making them not want to vote at all. Young people with college experience seem to be far more turned off by campaign finance than their peers without college experience. Nearly half (46%) of the youth with college experience indicated they were frustrated with the amount of money in political campaigns, while 34.2% of youth without college experience said the same.
Key Policy Issues
Youth with college experience were more likely to feel that the country is moving in the right direction (34.7%) compared to youth without college experience (26.7%). When asked what current economic issue was most important, the “lack of jobs that pay a wage that allows you to support a family,” came up as the number-one choice, slightly more so for youth without college experience (25.4%) compared to youth with college experience (21.6%). Not surprisingly, 13.5% youth with college experience reported student loan debt as the most important issue, while 4.8% of youth without college experience did so.
Our October findings saw little change in policy and issues stances by college experience. Youth without college experience were much more likely (usually by ten percentage points or more), across all issues, to say they “don’t know” whether they supported certain positions on issues (like gay marriage, universal health care, and immigration reform). Youth without college experience who did respond tended to skew slightly more conservative than youth with college experience.
Voter Information and Voting Laws
Youth with college experience were more likely than youth without college experience to correctly identify the photo ID laws (33.9% college and 27.4% non-college) and the early voting laws in their states (50.4% college and 43.9% non-college). Youth with and without college experience knew about the registration deadline in their states at nearly the same rate (13.7% and 13.1%, respectively).
Young people are seeking this information online; youth without college experience were slightly more likely to report that social networking or websites were somewhat or very important in seeking information about registering and voting, compared to youth with college experience.
GfK Knowledge Networks administers nationally representative surveys built on a standing panel of randomly sampled English- and Spanish-speaking households.Recruited households are given Internet access if needed. The second wave of the survey, presented here, was administered to 1,109 respondents–US citizens between the ages of 18 and 29, between October 12 and October 23, 2012. All those respondents had also been surveyed in a first wave fielded between June 22 and July 2, 2012, with a sample of 1,695. African Americans, Latinos, and individuals who have never attended college were oversampled, and unless stated otherwise results are nationally representative statistics. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish. Margin of error was calculated at +/- 2.95%.