Harvard survey: Young voters are the new swing voters

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A new poll shows that young people may not be as liberal as some people think. A survey of 2,029 18-29-year olds by the Harvard Institute of Politics shows slightly more than half of those polled favor a Republican-led Congress with only 47 percent preferring Democratic control.

The numbers represent a shift from the 2010 midterm election when 55 percent preferred Democrat control and 43 percent favored a conservative Congress.

“While Democrats have lost ground among members of America’s largest generation, millennial views of Republicans in Congress are even less positive,” said Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe.  “Both parties should re-introduce themselves to young voters, empower them and seek their participation in the upcoming 2016 campaign and beyond.”

That’s because the poll also found a significant number of young voters are up for grabs. More than a quarter of those polled, 26 percent, indicated they hadn’t decided on a preference yet.

“The IOP’s fall polling shows that young Americans care deeply about their country and are politically up-for-grabs,” said Harvard Institute of Politics Director Maggie Williams.  “Millennials could be a critical swing vote. Candidates for office: ignore millennial voters at your peril.”

The IOP’s newest poll results – its 26th major release since 2000 – also show race and ethnicity continue to be a strong predictor of political attitudes.

The poll was conducted among only those voters who indicated they will “definitely be voting” in this midterm election. A previous survey asking the same question of a broader group of young voters showed 50 percent favoring Democrats in Congress and only 43 percent favored Republicans.

That’s something to note, according to Democratic strategist Karl Frisch.

“The poll’s findings do not support the media narrative that Millennials have become Republicans – they haven’t. Only likely youth voters favor Republicans. This is not without reason as likely youth voters are more likely to be white and conservative, which – as you might expect – does not reflect the youth voter overall,” Frisch said. “So yes, Republicans do better with young voters when fewer young voters turn out. Thus far in 2014, it doesn’t look like that will be the case.” 

According to an analysis of Millennial early voting by Project New America, some 200,000 more young voters have turned out in 2014 than at the same point in 2010.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.