Young voters prefer Democrat John Kerry to President Bush by a margin of 46 percent to 40 percent, according to an MTV Choose or Lose poll released Tuesday, although they do not feel overwhelmingly positive toward either candidate.
Choice For President
Young people, however, are clearly invested in the upcoming election. Three in four Americans under the age of 30 say they are registered, and eight in 10 of those registered voters say they definitely plan to vote.
The poll, conducted by CBS News on behalf of MTV and The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, finds young voters believe the stakes in this election are high. Three in four think this is one of the most, or the most, important election in their lifetime.
[MTV and CBS are both owned by Viacom.]
In Your Lifetime, This Election Is…
(Registered voters 18-29)
The most important
One of the most important
As important as others
Given those perceived high stakes, it's not surprising to see that more young people are following this election closely than in recent election cycles.
More than eight in ten say they are paying attention to this election. One in three younger voters say they are paying a lot of attention to the campaign, and another 47 percent of younger voters are paying at least some attention.
Younger voters are paying more attention to this campaign than at the same point in both the 2000 and 1996 presidential campaigns.
In fact, the last time voters under 30 were paying this much attention at this point in the election was in 1992 when Bill Clinton challenged incumbent George H.W. Bush. Back then, 85 percent of younger votes said they were paying attention; this year, 83 percent say they are.
The poll was conducted just a week after the Republican National Convention, but the Democratic ticket of Kerry and Sen. John Edwards held a 46 percent to 40 lead over the Republican ticket of Mr. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Independent candidate Ralph Nader does somewhat better among these younger voters than among the nation's voters as a whole, drawing 4 percent compared to just 3 percent overall.
But Nader may be siphoning off some support from Kerry among the under-30 voters: asked whom they would vote for if the election were between John Kerry and George W. Bush, Kerry's lead increases to ten points, 51 to 41 percent.
Young voters see Kerry, not George W. Bush, as someone who understands their lives: 48 percent think Kerry shares their priorities, and 40 percent think he does not. In contrast, more than half of voters under 30 see President Bush as someone who does not share their priorities.
The economy and jobs is the number one issue for young people. Given a set of choices, 35 percent choose the economy and jobs as the most important issue in their vote, 22 percent say terrorism and national security, 15 percent cite the war in Iraq, 12 percent education and 11 percent civil liberties and civil rights.
Just under half (49 percent) of young people say they disapprove of Mr. Bush's performance as president, while 44 percent approve.
Bush's Overall Rating
More than half believe that the country is currently not on the right track and that Mr. Bush does not have the same priorities as them, while nearly half say that the economy is very or fairly bad.
Young people have mixed feelings about the war in Iraq: 49 percent think the United States did the right thing in taking action against Iraq, while 45 percent believe the U.S. should have stayed out. They are more in agreement, however, when it comes to the draft: most (78 percent) oppose its reinstatement, and most (59 percent) think it will probably not be reinstated.
And young voters definitely agree that the candidates should appear on MTV. Nearly eight in ten voters under age 30 say it would help in their decision-making if a presidential candidate appeared on MTV to address issues that matter to young people.
The poll was conducted by CBS News on behalf of MTV and The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) among 876 18 to 29 year-olds by telephone from September 8-13, 2004. The margin of error for this survey is + 3%. These respondents were part of nationwide representative samples identified in households previously interviewed by CBS News Polls.