The conventional wisdom that the GOP is the party of the old and Democrats are the party of the young took a hit on Wednesday with the release of a poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP). It found that among 18-to-29-year-olds who plan to vote in the midterms next week, 51 percent would prefer to see Republicans in control of Congress – while 47 percent favor the Democrats.
IOP took a similar poll prior to the last midterm election – when the 2010 Republican wave handed control of the House to the Republican Party. Even in a banner year for Republicans, the 18-to-29 crowd still vastly preferred a Democrat-run Congress to a Republican one, by 55 percent to 43 percent.
However, as with much of the other opinion polling on the upcoming midterms, the preference for a Republican-led Congress appears alongside somewhat confusing data regarding the respondents’ overall attitudes toward both parties.
For instance, 77 percent of respondents said the state of the economy was an important factor in how they would vote. Respondents also said they trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the economy. (The margin was slim: 30 percent to 26 percent, with a plurality of 40 percent saying they didn’t know.)
On every single issue pollsters asked about – the economy, foreign policy, immigration, race relations and health care – respondents actually reported more trust in Democrats than Republicans. However, as with the economy, for each policy area a plurality said they didn’t know which party would handle things better than the other.
While both parties’ performance in Congress was viewed with net disapproval, Democrats did better on approval ratings (35 percent v. 23 percent) and – well – not quite as horribly as Republicans on disapproval (60 percent v. 72 percent.)
When preference for which party controls Congress is expanded to all respondents rather than just likely voters, the percentages flip – with Democrats winning 50 percent to 43 percent.
Of those who voted in the 2012 presidential election, 53 percent cast a ballot for President Obama, and only 33 percent voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Asked what party they consider themselves affiliated with when they vote, the largest share of respondents, at 42 percent, self-identified as Independents. One-third (33 percent) said they were Democrats, and 22 percent said they were Republicans.
Yet when asked if they feel they’re more politically conservative or more liberal, 35 percent chose conservative and 33 percent liberal.
The poll also showed a stark racial divide in respondents’ views of President Obama and of which party should control Congress.
White respondents disapprove of the president by a 65 percent to 31 percent margin, while African Americans approve by an overwhelming 78 percent to 17 percent. Similarly, whites prefer a GOP-led Congress by a 50 percent to 43 percent margin. African Americans prefer Democrats in charge by 68-25.
“For both parties, these numbers present serious challenges, as well as certain opportunities,” IOP staff wrote in a summary of their findings. “While Democrats clearly perform less well in the eyes of young voters than they did early in the Obama administration, there are few signs of Republicans gaining ground; less than one in four 18-to-29-year-olds approve of their performance in Congress.
“Although millennials may be souring on both political parties and Washington politics in general, our polling and other research also bear strong evidence that they care deeply about their country and are willing to work—with or without government—to improve the quality of life in their communities through public service programs and activities.”
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: