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Harvard: Young Americans 'disillusioned' with Obama, just 1 in 4 plan to vote; Senate in play

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Republican Party,Democratic Party,Hillary Clinton,Polls,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Marijuana,Millennials

Disillusioned with President Obama and distrustful of Washington, the youngest of voters are leaving the Democrats and turning to the Republicans, another danger sign that the Senate might be ripe for the GOP’s taking, according to a comprehensive new Harvard University poll.

The poll done by students with the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics also found that young Democrats are far less enthusiastic about voting in the midterm elections than Republicans and that only one in four younger voters even plan to vote in the fall.

"This is a good sign for the Republican chances to pick up the Senate," said Harvard Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson.

And the poll revealed that Facebook, hands down, is their favorite social media website, with more than 8 in 10 with an account, more than twice their use of Twitter.

“It’s been clear for some time now that young people are growing more disillusioned and disconnected from Washington,” said IOP Polling Director John Della Volpe. “There’s an erosion of trust in the individuals and institutions that make government work — and now we see the lowest level of interest in any election we’ve measured since 2000.”

The 25th “Survey of Young Americans' Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service,” which interviewed 3,058 18- to 29-year-olds, revealed a swing away from Democrats since President Obama's reelection and the last midterm election in 2010. Harvard officials on a media call cited youth disillusionment with Obama.

It found that youngest sector of the group, those 18-24, are becoming less Democratic and more Republican. In 2010, 38 percent called themselves Democrats. That has dropped to 35 percent. And those identifying as Republicans has edged up from 23 percent to 25 percent.

The GOP is also more enthusiastic for their team in the fall. Some 44 percent of younger Republicans said they will vote, compared to just 35 percent of younger Democrats, a group that pushed Obama across the finish line in 2012. Black and Hispanics, two other Democratic groups, are even less enthused, with just 19 percent planning to vote.

Overall, younger voters have the blahs, with just 23 percent saying that they will “definitely be voting” in the midterms. That number was 31 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009.

Ironically, the support for Obama, while at rock bottom in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, is rising among the group but it's not helping Democrats in the midterms.

The shifts in the politics of younger voters could be the result of their distrust of government. The poll found that in the last year, the “trust index” has dropped from 39 percent to 31 percent. Obama and the military suffered the biggest drop with trust in Obama going from 39 percent to 32 percent and trust in the military has dropped from 54 percent to 47 percent.

“The Institute’s spring poll shows 18- to 29- year-olds’ trust in public institutions at a five-year low — and their cynicism toward the political process has never been higher," said Grayson. “To inspire the next generation to public service — and to improve our communities — our elected officials need to move past the bitter partisanship and work together to ensure progress and restore trust in government.”

Other findings:

— Nearly half support legalization of marijuana.

— A majority believe the income gap is a major problem in America.

— Hillary Clinton, eyeing a 2016 presidential bid, has a 52 percent favorability rating.

It also looked at social networking tools used by younger voters and found that Facebook is their favorite site. Some 84 percent use it, twice the number who have a Twitter account, 40 percent. Google accounts have increased to 44 percent, Instagram to 36 percent, Pinterest to 33 percent, Snapchat to 23 percent and Tumblr to 14 percent.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.