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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 10:23 AM ET, 11/07/2011

Poll watcher: Millennials dispirited; Obama in swing states and 2012 religious divide

Millennials dispirited about 2012 – The millennial generation - adults currently under age 30 - supported Barack Obama at record levels in 2008, but a comprehensive new report from the Pew Research Center provides the clearest picture yet that young Americans are dispirited about politics and next year’s presidential election. At the same time, the report shows that seniors are more excited about the 2012 election and even more supportive of Mitt Romney than they were of John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. The report’s worth a full read, but here are a few key findings:

-A mere 13 percent of Millennials have given a lot of thought to the 2012 candidates, down from 28 percent in 2007 and markedly lower than other age groups. The drop in early interest is particularly sharp – from 31 percent to 13 percent— among Millennials who identify or lean toward the Democratic Party.

-While more than eight in 10 members of every generation cared “a good deal” who was elected president in 2007, only 69 percent of Millennials say so this year, down from 81 percent.

-The “Silent” generation — represented by Americans over age 65 — are more enthusiastic about 2012 than they were four years ago. Some 42 percent of this group have given a lot of thought to presidential candidates this year (up from 32 percent in 2007), and 36 percent are following election news “very closely,” up from 28 percent four years ago. On top of the heightened interest, Romney holds a 13-point lead among the Silent generation, a group McCain won by a slimmer 8-point margin in 2008.

-Despite the lower enthusiasm, fully 61 percent of Millennials say they’d support Obama in an election against Romney next year, down a bit from 66 percent who supported him in 2008. All of Obama’s advantage among this group, though, comes from non-whites. Obama and Romney each win 49 percent support among white Millennials, while Obama’s edge among racial minorities is much larger.

Obama weak on deficit and jobs in swing states – Swing state voters say the “Republican candidate for president” will do a better job than Obama handling the federal budget deficit and unemployment, while Obama matches an unnamed GOP challenger on health care and terrorism in a Gallup-USA Today poll released Friday.

While the results are fairly hypothetical given that the Republican challenger has yet to be determined, the poll shows that the deficit and jobs are among of Obama’s biggest weaknesses in key 2012 states, while his work on health care and terrorism are less potent lines of attack.

Religious divide in 2012 – Post columnist E.J. Dionne argues in today’s Washington Post that religion will play a key role presidential campaign, but notes wide disagreement on religion’s role in the public square. He’s in the right. A 52 percent majority of Americans said churches should keep out of politics in a 2010 Pew survey, a number that’s up somewhat from 2006 and earlier, where majorities said churches should “express views on social and political questions.”

As for religious tests, Dionne opines that given “the ugly controversy over Catholicism when Al Smith and John F. Kennedy sought the presidency,” Americans shouldn’t exclude candidates for their religious views. More than three quarters of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll say Romney’s Mormon faith doesn’t matter in their vote, while 20 percent say it makes them less likely to support him, 1 percent more likely.

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By  |  10:23 AM ET, 11/07/2011

Categories:  Barack Obama, GOP nomination

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