Millennials support President Barack Obama in greater numbers than the rest of the population. But even among those younger voters, polls show support for the president eroding.
In a Harvard study, voters between the ages of 18 and 29 give Obama an approval rating of 52 percent, just slightly higher than his rating among voters in general. Those younger voters went for Obama by 23 percentage points in 2012, down from 34 points in 2008.
While the decline is bad news for the Democrats, it does not necessarily translate into good news for the Republicans. Because the numbers also suggest a general disillusionment with politics and politicians in general. More than three-quarters of young voters in a recent survey said they did not trust government to do the right thing most of the time. (And as bad as that figure was, the trust for the media was even worse.)
We look at the numbers and trends, and try to decipher what they mean for America's political parties and other institutions.
THE TAKEAWAY: In comments, calls and Tweets, listeners and readers explain how politicians are failing them.
What are younger voters looking for? Kristen Soltis Anderson suggested that they seek "authenticity," as demonstrated by their enthusiasm for Ron Paul in the last election cycle.
"I think the rise of the Pauls is a good thing for the GOP," she said, "because it's showing there are a lot of different voices in the party and they're going to have a robust debate over the next few years about where the Republican Party goes. And to have a voice that is representing that libertarian streak, I think, is a good thing for recruiting more young people to the party ....
"They're very authentic. You believe that they believe what they say they believe. For many young people, that authenticity issue is a reason why Ron Paul resonated so much. Think about it: He's not the youngest guy on that stage, he's not the coolest guy on that stage. But there's no doubt that he believes the things that he is saying."
That was a theme that rang true in some of our comments, calls and Tweets, as well. Here's a selection:
Matt in St. Paul: I'm 25 ... I think in the Internet age that we've come up in, we're used to information at our fingertips. When we feel a lack of transparency and a lack of information coming out from who are supposed to be our leaders, it's very tough for people in our generation to trust.
Tom in Bloomington: I'm a 24-year-old. I consider myself a moderate. The thing that is really disturbing about Obama is that he ran on a platform of change in his first election and he's really come off as very similar to George W. Bush in his policies on the war on terror and civil liberties. One specific example is that the White House felt it was within its rights to assassinate a U.S. citizen without due process. That has really worried me. The worst thing about it is that when Obama does push the border on civil liberties, when it comes to incarceration or anything like that, the Democrats who were clamoring, who would have said something when it was Bush, aren't saying so much because it's their guy in office. ... I like [Ron and Rand Paul] a lot. But it was pretty clear that Ron Paul wasn't liked enough by the Republican Party to be nominated. They've definitely got some smart ideas when it comes to civil liberties, but as a whole the country doesn't seem to appreciate a lot of their economic policies and they think they're a little too crazy. I like a lot of their stances on civil liberties.
DutchAirman: The Republicans got a major swell of interest with Ron Paul. As a young supporter of Paul, I felt alienated by the GOP at party conferences. Rather than looking for a way to make themselves accessible to Paul supporters, they alienated them and displayed animosity. The GOP is too rigid and unwilling to consider changing — they don't view young people as having valid input.
@kerrimpr Climate change! The pace at which the gov addresses it exemplifies the unscientific approach politicians take to solving problems.— Emily Weber (@anotheremilyw) May 21, 2013
@kerrimpr 25. Liberal. constitution isn't sacred. Our institutions fail us. It's time for a rewrite— Dane Ryan (@danekryan) May 21, 2013
Zach in Minneapolis: Maybe [the parties] are pushing us into this position of seeming cynical because we want something completely different, and that we're disillusioned with the parties. But maybe it's the parties' fault. ... Being a liberal myself, I might be a little bit skewed here, but [the right] has gone so far to the right that there's nothing I can agree with anymore.
@kerrimpr we care more about solving problems than who solves them and more about people than upholding any status quo. Love this segment!— Liz Tunheim Sheets (@LizTunheim) May 21, 2013
@dailycircuit Repub lack of reality & obsession w/religion drives me away. Socially progressive doesnt mean u cant be fiscally conservative— Brandon Hensley (@blhens) May 21, 2013
Michael Roden: I'm 26. Millenials are not forever disillusioned with politics, but we need the baby-boomers to get out the way first. We have taken it upon ourselves to make change outside of politics because the boomers in power have no desire to solve the problems they have caused.
It's all about the issues. The two party system is outdated. We want to focus on what really matters.— Bree Thompson (@breeleethompson) May 21, 2013
Steve in Winona: I'm 28. I consider myself a young conservative. I was a delegate for the GOP this last caucus. But I have a lot of trouble voting for the Republicans because they mix up their religion so much with their politics. A third of people under 30 are nonreligious. It's just a big problem for our demographic, I think, that the Republican Party seems to be God's party.
The president has done more to polarize government than unite. He ran on uniting the country and instead has split it further.— writerguy (@writerguy35) May 21, 2013
An increasingly volatile climate, CRAZY student debt, reduced gov services, etc It's hard NOT to be angry w/ everyone in politics— Kelly Marie Prosen (@KellyMProsen) May 21, 2013
@kerrimpr I see Dems & GOP as orange v. orange. In 08 I wanted to believe O = change, but it hasn't come to fruition. Same political games.— CHRSTN. (@Christin612) May 21, 2013
Kelly Marie Prosen: I don't think we're just frustrated with the President, but with the gigantic global mess we're inheriting.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MILLENNIALS AND THE VOTE:
•The Politics Of The Millennial Generation
"'Democrats clearly have an advantage with millennials, but they can lose it if they can't get the economy moving or are beholden to the same old interest groups that younger people are rejecting,' [David] Gergen, a former top aide to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton says." (Time)
•Millennials Uncertain Of Loyalty Toward Obama
"If you ask millennials to name the best president of their lifetimes, only 14 percent say Barack Obama. By far the most popular answer to that question is actually former President Bill Clinton." (NPR)
•Six Take-Aways from the Census Bureau's Voting Report
"Youth voter turnout rates also declined from 2008 to 2012, contrary to initial reports based on the national Election Day exit polls, which had shown the youth voter turnout rate holding steady. According to the Census Bureau report, the turnout rate among 18-to 24-year olds fell to 41.2% in 2012 from 48.5% in 2008." (Pew Research Center)