WASHINGTON – Members of the huge millennial generation, who have strongly supported President Barack Obama in the past, have soured on him and take a skeptical view of his signature health care law, according to a new poll from Harvard's Institute of Politics.
"Millennials have always been one of two significant parts of the Obama coalition," said John Della Volpe, the institute's polling director. Throughout Obama's national political career, members of the millennial generation gave him a significantly higher approval rating than the rest of the population, he said.
Now, however, their views have become much more similar to the rest of the population.
"They're less different every day," Della Volpe said. "That's not helpful to chances of Democrats looking ahead to the 2014 midterm" elections.
Obama's approval rating has fallen to 41 percent, down from 52 percent earlier this year, among members of the millennial generation, which the poll defined as Americans between the ages of 18 and 29.
The poll also found that people 18 to 24 identified less with the Democratic Party than those aged 25-29, suggesting that the strong support Democrats have enjoyed among young voters during Obama's two elections may be fading.
Among 25- to 29-year-olds, Democrats have a 16-point edge over Republicans in party identification, the poll found. But among 18- to 24-year-olds, that margin shrank to 6 points.
On the other hand, approval of congressional Republicans has now fallen to 19 percent among millennials, the poll found. Congressional Democrats got approval from 35 percent.
If it were possible, 52 percent of millennials said they would vote to recall all members of Congress, the poll found, and 47 percent said they would vote to recall Obama.
The poll offers a mixed view of Obama's health care law.
As with the population at large, most 18- to 29-year-olds do not expect to benefit from it. By a 3-2 margin, they disapprove of the law and fewer than 1 in 5 of those polled said they expect to see the quality of care they get improve as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
About 1 in 5 of those from 18 to 29 said they lack health insurance. Asked if they think they will enroll for health benefits under the new law, roughly 3 in 10 said they are likely to, with a similar number saying they would not.
More than 4 in 10, however, said their chances of enrolling were 50-50, suggesting that the administration still has a significant opportunity to persuade young Americans who lack insurance to sign up.
Getting a significant number of young, healthy people to sign up for coverage is key to making the law work. If only older, sicker people sign up, the costs of insurance will rise over the next several years.
Skepticism about the law is not surprising, said Trey Grayson, the institute's director. "This is a generation that lives digitally," and the intense coverage of the problems of the law's enrollment website, HealthCare.gov, are likely to have turned off many young Americans.
As with older Americans, the views that 18- to 29-year-olds have about the law are strongly shaped by partisanship.
Among those who identify as Republicans, only 9 percent say they would sign up for benefits under the health care law. Among those who identify as Democrats, 40 percent say they would do so.
Asked about options to reduce the federal budget, those polled expressed little support for raising Medicare premiums or reducing Social Security benefits, contrary to the views of some who believe younger voters are likely to support cutting the costs of retirement programs.
Among options to reduce the deficit, the ones receiving strongest support also poll well among older Americans: reducing the arsenal of nuclear weapons, requiring those earning over $1 million a year to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes, and cutting foreign economic aid.
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