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Young Voters Favor Obama, but Divided by Race, Religion

Millennial Voter Panel 2012

From left, millennial mayors Svante L. Myrick of Ithaca, N.Y., and Alex Morse of Holyoke, Mass., talk during a panel with Erin Taylor of Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs; Rachel Stanley, a junior at Elon University in North Carolina; and Mohammad Usman, a senior at DePauw University in Indiana. The discussion was part of the Millennial Values Symposium sponsored by the Berkley Center.

October 5, 2012 – Voters age 18 to 25 favor President Barack Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in general by 16 points, but 80 percent of white evangelical Protestants favor Romney, according to a new survey released yesterday.

Conducted by Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Washington, D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute, the Millennial Values and Voter Engagement Survey shows support for Obama has increased significantly since March.

Called “younger millennials” the 18 to 25 cohort favor the president 55 percent vs. 39 percent.

The survey also shows wide divides in terms of race and religion.

“There are striking differences along racial lines about the role of faith in the lives of presidential candidates,” said Thomas Banchoff, Berkley Center director. “Strong majorities of black and Hispanic younger millennials say it is important for presidential candidates to have strong religious beliefs, while a majority of white younger millennials disagree.”

Black and White Divides

Results from the survey are based on interviews with 1,214 adults age 18 to 25.

Despite being a generation known for its acceptance of differences, the survey found persistent racial divides among the group.

Obama commands an overwhelming lead among black (97 percent) and Hispanic (69 percent) young voters, while Romney has an 11-point advantage over Obama among white voters the same age (52 percent vs. 41 percent).

Religious Differences

In addition to the 80 percent of white evangelical Protestant young voters favoring Romney, 51 percent of white mainstream Protestants in the group say they will vote for the Republican candidate.

Obama maintains an advantage over Romney among Catholic voters age 18 to 25 (55 percent vs. 38 percent) religiously unaffiliated younger millennial voters (68 percent vs. 23 percent), and minority Protestant voters (70 percent vs. 26 percent).

Understanding Young Voters

“The Berkley Center worked with PRRI on this survey in order to better understand how young people relate their ethical and religious values to public life and the upcoming election,” Banchoff explains.

The new survey also finds that 66 percent of younger millennials say they are registered to vote, with 50 percent indicating they are absolutely certain they will vote in the 2012 election.

Despite this statistic, younger millennials exhibit a high degree of pessimism about the democratic process and government.

More than 6-in-10 of them agree that “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does,” while 82 percent believe business corporations have too much influence on the political process.

Bring the Kids

Another revelation in the survey is that parents who brought their children to the voting booth with them when they were little are more likely to vote as young adults.

“One of the most striking findings of the survey is the impact of parental example on younger millennial voter engagement and voting preferences,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “…[and] younger millennials who have two parents supporting the same presidential candidate are closely following the vote choices of their parents.”

Young Mayors

Last night, two younger millennial mayors talked about the future of American politics at Georgetown – Svante Myrick, 25, the Democratic mayor of Ithaca, New York, and Alex Morse, 23, mayor of Holyoke, Mass.

Sponsored by the Berkley Center and Georgetown’s Office of the President, the event was part of the Millennial Values Symposium, which brings student leaders from around the country to address the future of American democracy in light of today’s survey.

"If you believe politics are too toxic, the best thing you can do is vote," Myrick said at the discussion.  

Morse stressed the importance of bipartisanship in politics, saying there is "no Republican or Democrat way to fill a pothole."

The symposium is made possible through a grant from the Ford Foundation.

For more information on the survey findings, visit the Berkley Center’s website.

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