The Pendulum Swings: Young Voters Lean Democratic genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Left And Right

When talking about the weather in a number of locales, one often hears the expression, "If you don't like the weather, give it a few minutes and it will change." Politics seems to be a much slower process that is even less predictable...but one thing is certain...the principle of the pendulum will always remain a significant factor. The latest New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll tells us that an inevitable shift may be emerging.

Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.

More than half of Americans between 17 and 29 years old — 54 percent — say they intend to vote for a Democrat for president in 2008. They share with the public at large a negative view of President Bush, who has a 28 percent approval rating with this group, and of the Republican Party. They hold a markedly more positive view of Democrats than they do of Republicans.

At a time when Democrats have made gains after years in which Republicans have dominated Washington, young Americans appear to lean slightly more to the left than the general population: 28 percent described themselves as liberal, compared with 20 percent of the nation at large. And 27 percent called themselves conservative, compared with 32 percent of the general public.

Forty-four percent said they believed that same-sex couples should be permitted to get married, compared with 28 percent of the public at large. They are more likely than their elders to support the legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

By a 52 to 36 margin, young Americans say that Democrats, rather than Republicans, come closer to sharing their moral values, while 58 percent said they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, while 38 percent said they had a favorable view of Republicans.

By any measure, the poll suggests that young Americans are anything but apathetic about the presidential election. Fifty-eight percent said they are paying attention to the campaign. By contrast, at this point in the 2004 presidential campaign, 35 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were paying a lot or some attention to the campaign.

It remains to be seen if one of the candidates can capitalize on the traditionally idealistic tenets that this age group is likely to embrace. The poll suggested that there is enthusiasm for universal health care and a liberal immigration policy as well as the legalization of gay marriage. Responders also indicated they would support a woman or a black candidate for president...signs that clearly provide an opportunity for Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.

These voters are also paying far more attention to the upcoming 2008 presidential election than the same age group did in 2004...a very favorable trend for the Democratic nominee. Of potential concern to Democrats is this group’s belief that the war in Iraq will have a favorable outcome.

I'm of the opinion that this should signal Democrats to do more than oppose the war; they need to offer constructive alternatives that may bring a positive end to an otherwise negative situation. While that may be difficult to achieve, it would behoove the Democrats to explore a proposal being offered by Senator Biden whereby Iraq is partitioned into three autonomous political entities with some loosely established national structure.

Such a plan might allow the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops and shifting responsibility for success to the people of Iraq...a plan that might at least provide a more palatable conclusion to the U.S. effort. If implemented, it may solidify independent voter support for the Democratic nominee as well...a key factor to the success of the Democrats in 2006.

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Daniel DiRito | June 26, 2007 | 8:36 PM
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