Young voters, once enthusiastic, disenchanted with Obama

BOSTON Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:37pm EST

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Young voters, crucial to President Barack Obama's election in 2008, are disenchanted with him and more think he will lose than win reelection, a Harvard University poll showed on Thursday.

While they favor Obama over any of his Republican challengers, they are not motivated to turn out for him as in 2008.

"They are not particularly inspired by Romney, Gingrich or anyone else," Trey Grayson, director of Harvard's Institute of Politics, said of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich.

Harvard surveyed voters age 18 to 29, a group known as Millennials because many were born just before the turn of the millennium in 2000.

They supported Obama over a generic Republican candidate by 6 percentage points. His margin widened to about 11 percentage points if he faces Romney in a general election and to 16 percentage points if his opponent is Gingrich or Texas Governor Rick Perry, the survey said.

But 18 to 29-year-olds have become disillusioned with his job performance, the survey showed. Some 36 percent predict Obama will lose reelection, 30 percent said he will win and 32 percent are unsure.

Less than half of those polled approve of the job Obama is doing and their view of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress is slipping as well, according to the survey.

Only 12 percent of young Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction and less than one-third of those polled approve of the way Obama is managing the economy, results showed.

The web-based survey of 2,028 U.S. citizens age 18 to 29 was conducted between November 23 and December 3. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

According to the survey, Romney led the pack of candidates vying for votes from young Republican and Independent voters who were at least somewhat likely to head to the polls for a primary or caucus.

Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Gingrich followed the front runner. Cain suspended his campaign on the final day of interviews for the survey.

Among other findings included in the survey, just 21 percent of those polled support the Occupy movement.

Protesters with the Occupy movement, which was launched near Wall Street in New York City and has now spread to other cities nationwide, say the U.S. economic system no longer works to the benefit of most Americans.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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