Obama Maintains Strong Lead in Presidential Race Among Young People

A new national poll finds 18- to 24-year-old likely voters continue to strongly prefer U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (56 percent) over U.S. Sen. John McCain (30 percent) as their pick for president. Some 53 percent of young people say the economy is their No. 1 issue — a ten fold increase over just one year ago (5 percent), according to the poll released Wednesday by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“The remarkable youth voter turnout in the primary process underscored the historic role young people are playing in the political process this year,” says IOP Director Bill Purcell. “Our new poll results show young Americans are looking forward to improving their country through public service, and to their participation making the difference on Election Day.”

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Young people favor Obama over McCain by nearly a 2-1 margin. Obama holds a 26-point lead over McCain, a lead that has remained nearly unchanged since March
  • Youth are eager to work in public service. Almost six in 10 young people say they are personally interested in engaging in some form of public service to help the country. Nearly half said this might include working for federal, state or local government; about a third said they would think about getting involved in a political campaign; and two in 10 said they would consider running for office
  • Over half of young people currently supporting a presidential candidate are interested in volunteering for their candidate’s campaign; 57 percent of Obama supporters and 47 percent of McCain supporters report they would be interested to volunteer for their candidate’s campaign if asked.
  • More young people see effectiveness of political engagement than one year ago. Nearly seven in 10 young adults today say they view political engagement as an effective way of solving the country’s problems, up six percentage points from Fall 2007 (63 percent).
  • College students who plan to vote are more likely to vote early or by absentee ballot. Among college students who said they will “definitely vote,” 45 percent said they plan to vote at their local polling place, but a bigger percentage (49 percent) said they won’t be going to their local polling place at all on Election Day — 41 percent report they will vote by absentee ballot and 8  percent say they’ll vote early

Harvard students designed the poll in consultation with IOP officials and Harris Interactive conducted the survey. The findings are based on an online survey to poll 2,406 18-24 year-old U.S. citizens between September 12 and October 6, 2008. Complete results can be viewed here.

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