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Romney Trails Among Young Adults

Most are Misinformed about their States’ Voting Laws
New CIRCLE poll of 18-29s released today

Young people hold mixed opinions of Barack Obama, but they prefer him by a 55%-42% over Mitt Romney, whom most see as a “typical politician.” Young people are split about evenly on the recent health care reform, with the largest group (41.2%) uncertain. Somewhat more of them favor government spending to strengthen the economy rather than cutting spending and taxes. Eleven percent say that they support the Tea Party, and 14.9% say they support Occupy Wall Street, but less than 2% say they have personally participated in Occupy protests.

Most are misinformed about the rules that govern voting in their own states, with substantial majorities misunderstanding or not knowing about photo ID requirements or requirements to register at least 30 days before the election.

When asked whether they planned to vote, 41% of all the young people said this was extremely likely, and another 17% said it was likely. Only a small group said they were currently unregistered yet planning to vote in November (11.6% of those not registered at the time of the poll said they were extremely likely to vote in November). A majority said they had been paying some or a lot of attention to the campaign.

This release is part of CIRCLE’s #YouthTruth campaign. These are some of the results of a CIRCLE poll commissioned by the Youth Engagement Fund and conducted by Knowledge Networks. Knowledge Networks administers nationally representative surveys built on a random sample of households. Recruited households are given Internet access if needed. Between June 22 and July 2, 2012, Knowledge Networks surveyed 1,695 US citizens between the ages of 18 and 29. African Americans, Latinos, and individuals who have never attended college were oversampled, but unless otherwise noted, this press release reports nationally representative statistics. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish.

Obama Leads Romney

Almost 34% of respondents said they would “definitely” vote for Barack Obama if the election were held today, versus 16.1% who would definitely vote for Mitt Romney. When asked if they would vote for Barack Obama if the election were held today, 34% of respondents said they would “definitely” vote for the President. When asked the same question about Mitt Romney, only 16.1% of respondents said they “definitely” would vote for the ex-Governor. Note that when Rock the Vote surveyed a similar sample in May 2008, 52% of young people said they would vote for Barack Obama, and 39% said they would vote for John McCain, but Obama won 68% of the actual youth vote in 2008.

Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Would definitely vote for 33.8% 16.1%
Might vote for 21.1% 26.2%
Would probably not vote for 10.3% 13.8%
Would definitely not vote for 29.4% 38.3%
Neither/Refused 5.3% 5.7%


Barack Obama was seen as better understanding the problems of young people, by a 62.5%-27.4% margin. He also led on all other specific questions about favorability. The 2008 exit poll (of actual voters) asked: Which candidate do you think is in touch with people like you? 69% of young voters answered Obama and 36% McCain.

Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Understands the problems of people your age
62.5% 27.4%
Has the right experience to be President
59.2% 31.7%
Honest and trustworthy 53.9% 33.7%
Shares your values 53.9% 35.3%
Will stand up for your interests 53.7% 35.6%
Will bring change to America
51.5% 38.3%
Will get things done 49.4% 39.5%
Will help improve the economy
49.5% 39.6%
Is a typical politician
38.6% 52.1%


Almost half of young people were either admiring of (14.4%) or satisfied with (34.6%) President Obama, but the largest single group (39%) was disappointed. Just 9.5% described themselves as “angry” at him. Of those who were angry, 67.5% identified themselves as slightly to extremely conservative, 25.1% were moderate, 3.5% were slightly liberal, and 3.8% were liberal or extremely liberal.



Economic Issues Dominate

By a very wide margin, young people chose economic issues as the most important for politicians to address: “jobs and the economy” was the top choice of 33%, followed by the cost of college and student loans and the federal budget deficit, both at 11%. No other issue reached double digits. When asked about specific economic issues that might affect their presidential vote, the top choices were lack of jobs (21.1%), student debt (11.9%) and rising health-care costs (8.8%). More than one in four said that the cost of college had prevented them personally from getting the college education they wanted. Almost one in five had moved back with their parents after living alone because of the economic downturn.

By a two-to-one margin, young people thought the country was moving in the wrong direction. Most thought the election could make at least a small positive difference in their own lives and communities.

Split on the Issues

The Tea Party drew the support of 10.8% of youth; 14.9% said they supported Occupy Wall Street. Of the 180 individuals who said they supported the Tea Party, 30 (or 16.7%) also said they supported Occupy Wall Street. Two thirds of young people said that the rich and large corporations had too much power, and 57.1% thought that the richest one percent have too much power.

Young people gave the following responses to leading controversial policy issues.

Support Oppose Don’t Know
The Buffet rule 51.1% 14.3% 34.6%
Same Sex Marriage 50.2% 30.5% 19.2%
Allow illegal immigrants brought to the US as children
to gain legal resident status if they join the military
or go to college
50.0% 24.3% 25.7%
Police must verify immigration status of people they stop
48.3% 28.8% 22.9%



Young people were split on the recent health care bill. 30.9% for and 27.9% opposed, with the largest group (41.2%) uncertain. Of those who were opposed, many more thought it gave too much power to government rather than too little.

Young People Misinformed about Voting Laws

Comparing what respondents thought were their state voting laws to the actual laws, we found that 68% of young people were either unable/unwilling to answer or were incorrect about whether their state required a photo ID to vote. A total of 80% of the young voters were either unable to answer or incorrect about their state’s early registration rules. Specifically, 32% of the non-registered young people thought that their state allowed them to register less than 30 days before the election when it actually required them to do so at least 30 days prior. That means that if they become interested in voting during the final phase of the 2012 campaign, it will be too late for them to register.

Toplines are available here.

Find the press release here.

11 Responses to “Romney Trails Among Young Adults”

  1. Welcome… « HIGHER EDUCATION TALK RADIO Says:

    [...] For a complete look at the poll’s toplines and analysis provided by CIRCLE’s team of youth experts, go to:http://www.civicyouth.org/?p=3951. [...]

  2. Mike Sheppard Says:

    Having identified that Young People [are] Misinformed about Voting Laws, why is there no link to the necessary information so they can immediately correct the deficit?

    Seems an obvious next step.

  3. The League of Young Voters Education Fund » Blog Archive » Introducing #YouthTruth: A Campaign To Dispel Myths About Young Voters in the 2012 Election Says:

    [...] A background document accompanying this press release provides details and analysis regarding key findings of this representative, nationwide survey of over 1,600 young US citizens. The survey questions range from young Americans’ presidential choice and the defining issues for their generation this election cycle, to how well they understand the new voter I.D. laws. For a complete look at the poll’s toplines and analysis provided by CIRCLE’s team of youth experts, go to:  http://www.civicyouth.org/?p=3951. [...]

  4. No ID? No vote, no voice | FellaBus Blog Says:

    [...] recent report by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts found that 44 percent [...]

  5. Youth Voters: Can Obama Re-Energize Them? | www.youthradio.org Says:

    [...] There are 644 delegates under the age of 35, and even an official youth engagement coordinator. Polls show young adult support for President Obama at around 55%, slightly down from when he was elected in [...]

  6. Turnstyle » Youth Voters: Can Obama Re-energize Them? Says:

    [...] There are 644 delegates under the age of 35, and even an official youth engagement coordinator. Polls show young adult support for President Obama at around 55%, slightly down from when he was elected in [...]

  7. "My Vote Doesn’t Matter": Helping Students Surmount Political Cynicism | News from around the world Says:

    [...] him, one-time supporters are particularly wrestling with disillusionment. Forty percent in a CIRCLE poll this summer described their prime response as “disappointment.” Many who lean toward Romney are [...]

  8. Paul Loeb: "My Vote Doesn’t Matter": Helping Students Surmount Political Cynicism | Screw Cable Says:

    [...] him, one-time supporters are particularly wrestling with disillusionment. Forty percent in a CIRCLE poll this summer described their prime response as “disappointment.” Many who lean toward Romney are [...]

  9. Democrats Worry Confusion Over Rules May Depress Voter Turnout | Says:

    [...] July, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement released a poll finding that 61 percent of young people didn’t know the voter registration deadlines in their [...]

  10. What We Need to Do About Civic Education | Virginia News Press | Virginia Breaking News Headlines | Virginia News Directory Says:

    [...] found recently that 68 percent of immature people didn’t know either their state compulsory a print ID to [...]

  11. reforming civic education « Peter Levine Says:

    [...] found recently that 68 percent of young people didn’t know whether their state required a photo ID to vote, [...]

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