Institute of Politics Spring 2013 Poll

Post-Election Partisanship Among Millennials Deepens, Harvard Poll Finds

Obama Job Approval Steady, Sharp Partisan Differences Continue to Grow
Several months after a successful re-election campaign and during the initial phase of his second term, a slight majority (52%) of 18- to 29- year olds in America tell us that they approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as President, while 46 percent tell us that they disapprove of his job performance.

While the top-line indicators of approval have not changed, a look below the surface reveals that 18- to 29- year olds have never been more divided when it comes to the opinion of this President. Since November 2009, we have tracked how members of each party rate President Obama’s job performance eight times, and the difference between the way that Democrats and Republicans view the President has never been more dramatic than in the last six months. For example, 86 percent of Democrats approve of his job performance, while only 10 percent of Republicans feel the same, resulting in a net difference of 74 points. One year ago on the same question, the difference between Democrats and Republicans was 63 points; in November 2009 during the health care debate, the divide was 65 points.

Little Change in View of Gun Control Since Giffords’ 2011 Shooting

Recent tragedies in Newtown and Aurora have brought gun control to the forefront of the public discussion, and a plurality of 18- to 29- year olds support greater restrictions on guns. Nearly a majority, 49 percent, support making gun laws more strict, while 35 percent believe gun laws should be kept as they are; 15 percent of 18- to 29- year olds tell us that they prefer less strict gun laws. But those recent tragedies and resulting public discussion do not appear to have strongly increased youth support for stricter gun laws. Our Spring 2011 release (which was conducted following the Tucson shootings of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others) found 46 percent of 18- to 29- year olds supported stricter laws on and 12 percent wanted less strict gun laws. Since 2011, support for making gun laws more strict has increased only by 3 percentage points.

This contrasts with the general adult population. Overall adult support for stricter gun laws in a January 2013 CBS/New York Times poll was 54 percent, 5 percentage points higher than 18- to 29- year olds in our survey. The CBS/New York Times poll also found a greater increase in support over the past two years: support for stricter gun laws increased 8 percentage points from January 2011.

Millennials Split on View of the NRA; Approximately One-Half Favor Stricter Gun Control Laws

Young Americans under 30 have a mixed opinion of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been the face of opposition to President Obama’s gun control proposals. Thirty- eight percent (38%) expressed either somewhat or very favorable (13% very favorable, 25% somewhat favorable) attitudes towards the NRA, with equal numbers expressing unfavorable attitudes (20% somewhat unfavorable, 18% very unfavorable). Views of the NRA differ greatly along ethnic lines. A near majority of Whites have a favorable view of the organization (49% favorable, 36% unfavorable) while Blacks (12% favorable, 48% net unfavorable) and Asian-Pacific Islanders (19% favorable, 53% unfavorable) hold strongly unfavorable views of the NRA; Hispanics’ views are mixed (29% favorable and 32% unfavorable).

Significant Hardening of Views on Both Sides Apparent Since 2010
As noted in the previous section, analysis of President Obama’s approval rating clearly shows that Democrats view him more favorably than they did three years ago, while at the same time Republicans view him less favorably. This gap in opinion between the way Democrats and Republicans see politics and in many cases the world, has grown sharper and more distinctive since 2010 -- the last time that we can make the same methodological comparisons. From immigration to government spending to views on morality, the divide between political parties, even among our youngest voters, is stark. For example, in the Spring of 2010 Democrats were three points more likely than Republicans to agree that recent immigration into the U.S. “has done more good than harm” -- and today they are nine points more likely. In 2010, Republicans were 13 points more likely to disagree with that statement, today they are 27 points more likely to disagree.

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Check out results from the Fall 2012 Survey