Poll: young voters say “key life decisions” are in jeopardy

A new poll from Generation Opportunity, which is dedicated to engaging voters in the 18-29 age bracket, includes some remarkable findings about the attitudes of young people:

89 percent said “the current state of the economy is impacting their day-to-day lives” in unpleasant ways.  51 percent said they were spending less money on entertainment as a result, while 27 percent said they had sold possessions of significant value recently in order to make ends meet.

84 percent said the economy was causing them to delay “major life changes,” ranging from moving out on their own or improving their education, to getting married and having children.

In a spot of bad news for the Obama campaign, which has been banking on the extension of subsidized student loans to attract young voters, 64 percent of young voters said the availability of full-time jobs after graduation was more important than low student loan interest rates.

76 percent believe the lack of job opportunities is causing the American middle class to shrink – a remarkably sophisticated analysis, given that young people are generally thought to be more optimistic about the future, and view hard times as relatively transitory.

And only 38 percent of these young voters believe today’s political leaders reflect their interests.

Taken together, these results paint a portrait of what the media, in other circumstances, might describe as an insatiable appetite for change.  Generation Opportunity president Paul Conway said the poll numbers “should put elected leaders on notice.”

“What you see is a very pointed story of the impact the failed policies coming out of the white House of the course the last three years are having on the daily lives, and long-term plans, of young Americans,” Conway said in a statement.  “Frankly, it is not a pretty picture – millions of young Americans are paying the price, in a very personal way, for failed leadership and failed policies.”

I had a chance to discuss the poll results with Conway, and he made the intriguing point that young voters understand the pressures of competing in the international economy.  “Young adults know that they compete on a global stage with India and China,” he said.

“When you think to yourself that 16.7 percent of young adults in the U.S. are unemployed,” Conway continued, referring to the true unemployment rate for 18-to-29-year-olds, “and you think of all that intellectual capital and human capital sitting on the sidelines, while the rest of the world stage is not… and almost a third of our young people are saying they’re delaying going to school and getting more education or training, that’s a major number.”

A great opportunity exists for Republicans to reach out to these younger voters.  They understand that the job market determines the value of their education, and find little joy in the notion of emerging from school to arrive in a bleak low-growth employment wasteland, lugging useless degrees financed at incredibly low interest rates.