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Poll: Young People Back Obama, Disapprove of His Major Policies

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A new Harvard poll finds that President Obama is holding on to his strongest supporters, voters under 30, though they overwhelmingly oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan.

About 58 percent of young voters approve of Obama's job performance, while his approval among all voters recently dipped below 50 percent for the first time. About 66 percent of young voters oppose a build-up in Afghanistan, though this survey was in the field before the President's Westpoint speech.

In fact, the most striking part of the new poll is how young voters disapprove of Obama on issues across the board, yet still support his overall job performance. A briefing from Harvard's Institute of Politics (IOP) crunches the numbers:

The IOP's fall poll indicates 18-29 year-olds are now in line with the general population: a majority of young adults approve of [Obama] generally but disapprove of his handling of major issues asked about in the poll... A majority of 18-29 year-olds also disapprove of his handling of every major issue asked about:
Afghanistan (55% disapprove, 41% approve)
health care (52% disapprove, 44% approve)
the economy (52% disapprove, 44% approve)
Iran (53% disapprove, 42% approve)
and the federal budget deficit (58% disapprove, 38% approve)

Almost a year into his presidency, it is remarkable that Obama can retain overall support from these base voters even though they disapprove of his leadership on "every major issue." Obama's primary and general election victories were propelled by youth voters, who flocked to him by a whopping 34-point margin over McCain. That margin was staggering by any standard. It was 27 points higher than Kerry's margin in the prior election. And in 2008, Obama's youth edge was more than five times his margin within his next best performing cohort -- voters between 30 and 44, who favored him by 6 points.

Political operatives often stress that support is distinct from enthusiasm, however, and campaigns excel with an excited base for fundraising and volunteering. Somehow, Obama is doing alright among most young voters on that score, too. Most young people who volunteered for Obama last year say they would be "very likely" to re-up in 2012, at 55 percent, and another 30 percent said they would be "somewhat likely."

Finally, beyond Obama, the financial crisis has not made young Americans hungry for more regulation. About 57 percent said "government regulation of Wall Street" should stay at the same level or be reduced, while only 39 percent backed "more regulation."

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Ari Melber writes for The Nation, where this piece first appeared.