A poll released Monday shows that President Obama has shed much of the star power that electrified college campuses in 2008.
The poll from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) shows Obama leading Mitt Romney 52 percent to 35 percent among people aged 18 to 29 years old who are “extremely likely to vote.” (Being “extremely likely to vote” was CIRCLE’s likely voter screen.)
That’s a much smaller margin than the 34-point gap that separated Obama from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) among the age group four years ago. It’s also a sharp dip in support: Obama claimed 66 percent of the age group in 2008. A poll from Pew Research Center on Monday showed Obama leading Romney among 18- to 29-year-olds by a comparable spread, 56 percent to 35 percent.
Peter Levine, director at CIRCLE, said Obama can overcome the decline but it could still be an ominous sign to his campaign.
“I think if you are an Obama supporter, you need to be a little concerned,” Levine told TPM via email. “His comparatively weak position is already factored into national polls, so it’s not a revelation of an unknown problem for the Democrats. But it puts a specific number on the problem. Obama is running about 14 points behind where he was in November 2008 among youth.”
Levine said although Romney will likely outperform the 2008 GOP ticket of McCain and Sarah Palin, who drew the support of less than one-third of the age group in 2008, the former Massachusetts governor does not enjoy a strong standing among the young voting bloc. Romney ticked down almost two points since the summer, and CIRCLE’s latest poll reveals fairly harsh attitudes among the youngest portion of the electorate toward the Republican nominee.
A large majority, nearly 60 percent, said that they are either disappointed or angry with Romney, compared with a mere 9 percent who said they admire him. And when it comes to understanding problems of people their age, standing up for their interests and improving the economy, respondents gave a sizable edge to Obama.
“Compared to McCain’s benchmark, Romney is doing somewhat better,” Levine wrote. “In a longer-term perspective, he is doing very poorly among youth, with just 35% support.”
It’s not all gloomy for the president, who’s made gains among young voters over the course of this year’s campaign. Obama made a 7-point leap among the voting bloc since CIRCLE’s poll from June and July, which included nearly two-thirds of the same respondents as the latest survey.
Monday’s poll also shows a growing number of 18- to 29-year-olds have the intention to vote, a critical trend to an Obama campaign that is holding out hope for a robust turnout among its core constituencies. Sixty-seven percent of young adults said they are either “very” or “extremely” likely to vote, a 7-point spike since CIRCLE’s summer survey.
Tom Kludt is a newswriter for TPM. A former research intern and polling fellow for TPM, he lives and works in New York City. Tom graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in May of 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. He can be reached at Tom (at) talkingpointsmemo.com.