CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
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Outreach to youth: 11.5% of college youth but just 5.8% of non-college youth have been contacted on behalf of Obama; 3.5% of college youth and 6.6% of non-college youth for Romney

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.

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.


Graph 1:  Campaign Contact by Educational Attainment

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.

Methodology
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%. This release is part of CIRCLE’s  #YouthTruth campaign.

2 Responses to “Outreach to youth: 11.5% of college youth but just 5.8% of non-college youth have been contacted on behalf of Obama; 3.5% of college youth and 6.6% of non-college youth for Romney”

  1. Obama Favored Equally by Young Voters With and Without College, Survey Finds - Decision 2012 - The Chronicle of Higher Education Says:

    [...] the same margin as their peers without experience in college, according to an analysis of poll data released on Thursday by the Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and [...]

  2. Tim’s Tips: Obama Is Equally Favored by Young Voters With and Without College, Survey Finds Says:

    [...] the same margin as their peers without experience in college, according to an analysis of poll data released on Thursday by the Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and [...]

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