Obama now losing a key constituency: younger voters

Younger voters were a key to Barack Obama's successful presidential elections. But now polls show he's losing those 'millennials,' and Obamacare seems to be a major reason why.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Obama pauses as he speaks about the new health care law during a White House Youth Summit. Recent polls show Obama losing the support of younger voters.

As 2013 slouches toward 2014, the political numbers for President Obama just keep getting worse. And – you guessed it – much of that has to do with the Affordable Care Act known as “Obamacare.”

A new AP-GfK poll shows major doubts about Obama’s signature legislative achievement. Most troubling for the administration, that’s not just among those needing to sign up for new coverage through the HealthCare.gov website.

Perhaps more politically significant, Americans who will continue to get healthcare coverage through their employers blame Obama's healthcare overhaul for their rising premiums and deductibles, according to this poll.

Among the findings: 69 percent say their premiums will be going up, 59 percent say annual deductibles or copayments are increasing, just 21 percent said their plan is expanding to cover more types of medical care, 14 percent said coverage for spouses is being restricted or eliminated, and 11 percent said their plan is being discontinued.

"Rightly or wrongly, people with private insurance looking at next year are really worried about what is going to happen," Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who tracks public opinion on health care issues, told the Associated Press. "The website is not the whole story."

Meanwhile, a portion of the US population critical to success of the ACA – the millennial generation (those 18-29) – is no longer as enthusiastic about Obama as it was when he won re-election last year. Far from it, in fact.

According to a year-end USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll, millennials now split evenly on Obama’s job performance. Just 45 percent view him favorably here (46 percent unfavorably), far less than the 67 percent job approval rating among this age group that he enjoyed at the beginning of the year.

In the poll, just 41 percent of millennials approve of Obamacare, while 54 percent disapprove. That’s virtually the same as overall public opinion on the administration’s health care policy (40-55 percent).

As USA TODAY reports Sunday, “Key to making the Affordable Care Act a success is enrolling plenty of young, healthy people whose participation will offset some higher risk and older uninsured Americans who are expected to flock to the exchanges.”

Other recent polls show the same significant slippage in support for Obama among younger voters.

• A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last week shows a plurality (49-45 percent) disapproving of Obama’s job performance.

• The approval rating split in a Harvard Institute of Politics poll is not in Obama’s favor. A 54-41 percent majority disapprove.

• A Quinnipiac University poll shows most 18-29 year-olds (49-41 percent) disapproving of Obama’s performance.

It may be no wonder then that the Washington Post names Obama as having “the Worst Year in Washington.”

That’s the conclusion of politics blogger Chris Cillizza, who keeps track of those having “the Worst Week in Washington” throughout the year.

“Winning the Worst Week in Washington is one thing,” he writes in a weekend op-ed piece. “To win the Worst Year in Washington, you need to be very good at being very bad, or have really bad luck.”

“When historians write the story of Barack Obama’s presidency, 2013 will be his lost year,” Cillizza writes. “It opened with great promise and closed with equally great disappointment. In a year that could have been about building his legacy, the president was instead reduced to salvaging the signature accomplishment of his first term.”

“Yes, the economy is showing signs of improving. And yes, enrollment on HealthCare.gov is soaring compared with the first few weeks. Those facts provide hope for those who believe that 2014 will be better for Obama,” he writes. “But 2013 is almost gone and with it the president’s best chance for a lasting legacy. The damage done to Obama’s brand will linger well beyond this calendar year. There are no second chances in presidential tenures. Barack Obama, for wasting a year torpedoing your legacy, you had the worst year in Washington. Congrats, or something.”

By contrast, Secretary of State John Kerry is noted as having a “good year,” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is awarded the “best year.”

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