The young voters who twice gave overwhelming support to Barack Obama and his promises of a smart activist government appear to now have a growing skepticism about Washington and a shrinking loyalty to the Democrats.
Those are among the eye-opening takeaways from a national survey conducted by libertarian-leaning pollsters Reason-Rupe released Thursday. The data suggest openings for the GOP in this year’s midterm elections and in 2016.
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The Reason-Rupe national poll surveyed 2,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 29 online from February 28 to March 11. The results paint a picture of a generation that is socially liberal — two-thirds favor same-sex marriage, and 57 percent favor legalized pot — but increasingly doubtful about government competence and wary of being lumped in with a political party. A full two-thirds — 66 percent — of millennials believe government is inefficient and wasteful, a huge increase from 42 percent in 2009. Only one-fourth of millennials trust government agencies to “do the right thing.” And 34 percent call themselves independent, more than triple the rate of Americans over the age of 30.
That lack of trust in government and the two major political parties could carry through to the polling booth. More than three-quarters of millennials say they plan to vote this year, with 53 percent of registered voters saying they plan to back the Democratic candidate in their district, down from the 64 percent of millennials who say they voted for Obama in 2012.
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Those planning on staying away from the polls on Election Day also reinforce the larger point. Forty percent of those planning to sit out 2014 say they would rather vote for a third party candidate, revealing that party affiliation is becoming increasingly less important to them.
There are paradoxes buried in the poll results, though. More and more millennials say they favor reducing government spending and regulations. The poll found that 64 percent of millennials believe that cutting government spending by 5 percent would help the economy. Nearly 6 in 10 say cutting taxes would help.
At the same time, millennials support more government involvement and spending in some key areas. Almost three-quarters of those polled say that government has a responsibility to guarantee every citizen has a place to sleep and enough to eat. Over 70 percent are in favor of increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and 69 percent believe it’s the government’s responsibility to provide all Americans with health care insurance. Two-thirds say raising taxes on the wealthy would help the economy.
Related: Gallup Poll: 2014 Midterms Not a Slam Dunk for Incumbents
The poll also found that, even as millennials express their disdain for the partisan politics of the baby boom generation, 53 percent said they would consider voting for Hillary Clinton, by far the highest percentage of any potential candidate in the poll.
When likely voters were asked to pick their first choice among potential presidential candidates, Clinton topped the list with 39 percent, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 9 percent and Vice President Joe Biden at 7 percent. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) were each named by 6 percent of those polled.
For those candidates or any others eager to target the millennial vote, here’s one tip: 53 percent in the Reason-Rupe poll said they would back a candidate who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
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