A poll of 18-29-year-olds released by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics showed some troubling numbers for President Obama. Voters under 30, some of his strongest supporters in both of his election victories, are souring on the president, according to the data.
Fifty-four percent of voters ages 18-29 now disapprove of the president’s performance, his lowest mark among young voters since the start of his presidency, according to Harvard’s polling. Only 41 percent now approve of his performance, a major drop from 52 percent in April. Perhaps more troubling, as the administration tries to encourage young Americans to enroll in “Obamacare,” 57 percent of these young people said they disapprove of the health care law, and the majority of those surveyed who were uninsured said they were not sure if they would sign up for the new health care plans under the Affordable Care Act.
What does this mean for the president? The drop among young voters is not surprising. A variety of polls have shown that Obama is losing support among a number of parts of the electorate, and the young are part of this trend. And while Republicans overwhelmingly disapproved of the president well before this year, some Democrats and a huge bloc of independents have been frustrated both with the gridlock in Washington and the flawed rollout of the health care law.
A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that Obama’s job approval had dipped 21 points among independents over the last year. It’s not clear if Obama can regain the backing of these voters, young or old, which could make it harder for him to push for comprehensive immigration reform and some of his other big priorities in a second term.
But the bad numbers among young people don’t guarantee the failure of the health care law. The administration is trying to ensure a large percentage of the people enrolling in the new health care plans are between ages 18 and 35. They originally hoped that about 7 million people would purchase private health care plans under Obamacare over the next year, 2.7 million of whom would be between ages 18 and 35.
Administration officials are not as confident about reaching 7 million — or 2.7 million — with the challenges around the health care rollout. But White House officials say they would be happy if a smaller number of people overall enrolled in health insurance but a large percentage of them are young. (Administration officials won’t give an exact percentage, but 2.7 is 38 percent of 7 million.)
And that is still possible. This poll only contacted people ages 18-29, while the Obama administration is also trying to get people ages 30-35 to buy insurance. And while a national poll showing broad dissatisfaction among young people with the health care law is not helpful for the president and his team, the White House really just needs 2 million people under 35 from across the country to decide to purchase insurance.
That’s a tall order, but it’s a much more concrete challenge than trying to raise Obama’s approval ratings overall. Young Americans, as they are doing in states like Kentucky, could decide to enroll in Obamacare even if they don’t really like Obama.