For all the Republican efforts to cast President Barack Obama as a failed leader who created a lost generation of young people with diminished prospects for financial success, Obama has maintained a strong advantage over Mitt Romney among young voters, slightly increasing his lead in polls since the spring.
Despite the Romney campaign’s message that the “Obama economy” — specifically, the recession and the slow recovery — has been detrimental to young job seekers, Romney has made very limited gains since the spring among likely voters ages 18 to 29.
Those findings, from a national poll of young voters conducted for the Harvard Institute of Politics, highlight a lost opportunity for Romney, experts said. Earlier polls by the institute found a high level of undecided voters who, when compared with voters in 2008, were more likely to identify as conservative.
Romney’s selection of a more youthful and conservative running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, seems to have had a negative effect on some young voters, with 40 percent saying that the nomination of Ryan, 42, made them “much less likely” to vote for Romney. Ryan is more conservative than most young voters on social issues and the role of government in society.
In a spring survey, 34 percent of likely young voters said they supported Romney, compared with 51 percent for Obama. The survey, conducted from Sept. 19 to Oct. 3 and released on Wednesday, found that Romney’s level of support went to 36 percent from 34 percent, but that Obama’s support had grown to 55 percent from 51 percent.
Data from the poll, along with interviews of likely voters, suggest that Obama’s message that his administration has made steady progress is resonating with people under 30, whose unemployment rate for months has been higher than the national average.