Young voters optimistic about America’s future, split on economic issues

Results of a poll conducted by the Garfield Institute for Public Leadership at Hiram College show young voters are optimistic about America’s future and prefer President Barack Obama to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

According to the data, 50 percent of respondents reported favoring Obama with only 37 percent outright supporting Romney as a candidate.

“It would seem that Obama has really been pulling out the stops to get his platform steady with health care reform being upheld, the immigration changes and taking somewhat of a stand on gay marriage,” junior political science major Taylor Shanower said. “Despite the strong anti-Obama sentiment, he has had a very good year.”

However, things became less clearly divided when those polled were asked about specific issues rather than just the candidates.

Respondents between ages 18 and 29 reported they were very optimistic (63 percent) or somewhat optimistic (34 percent) about America’s future but had a slightly less positive outlook (58 percent and 39 percent) when asked about their optimism toward the economy over the next year.

Those polled were evenly split on whether Romney and the Republicans or Obama and the Democrats were more suited to strengthen the economy and generate jobs, and only a narrow majority felt small businesses would do more to improve the economy than their larger counterparts.

The survey also revealed the majority of young voters believe the Republican Party can better protect America’s competitive edge in the global economy and pay down the deficit, but almost two-thirds of those polled said Democrats would do a better job at ensuring Social Security is available to them when they retire.

“I would say I’m not surprised that people put their faith in the ‘Main Street over Wall Street’ rhetoric, considering how prevalent that argument seems to be,” Shanower said in reaction to the survey results. “However, I do think that in order to solve many problems with the economy and government, there has to be a balance between global advantage and quality of life as goals.”

Dr. Jason Johnson, the scholar in residence at Hiram’s Garfield Institute and a noted expert on elections and campaigns who is heading up the Listening to Young Voters Project, said despite these strong Democratic views reflected in young voters, the survey still reveals some interesting developments.

According to the data, Obama may be leading in the polls, but his advantage over Romney is much smaller than his Election Day performance in 2008, when he defeated John McCain by 33 percent among voters under 30.

“The survey shows that while there is general optimism for the future and support for the President among young people, it also shows that when asked about specifics on the economy and jobs, Romney and the Republicans have made significant gains,” Johnson said.

The project itself has been a yearlong endeavor by the institute in cooperation with the Clarus Research Group based in Washington, D.C., said Tom Ford, Hiram’s director of college relations. Results of the survey are based on a sample of 600 respondents with a margin of error of plus or minus four percent.

Contact Justin Lagore at [email protected].