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Presidential poll: Young voters back Obama over Romney, Harvard survey finds

Young U.S. voters support President Barack Obama by a narrower margin than they did in the 2008 election and backers of Republican challenger Mitt Romney are more enthusiastic about going to the polls, according to a poll released Wednesday.

In a survey by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics of likely voters under 30 years of age, Obama led Romney 55 percent to 36 percent. Exit polls of voters in the 2008 election showed Obama defeating Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona among those 18 to 29 years of age by 34 percentage points, a key to the president’s victory.

Participants in the latest Harvard poll who were eligible to vote four years ago backed Obama over McCain by a margin of 25 points, 58 percent to 33 percent.

The poll shows young Romney supporters are more enthusiastic than those backing Obama. Sixty-five percent of those who favored the former Massachusetts governor said they will “definitely” vote in the Nov. 6 election, compared with 55 percent of the Obama supporters who said they would “definitely” go to the polls.

Harvard’s poll of young voters in 2008 surveyed 18- to 24- year-olds, and that slice of the electorate may be less engaged this time. Those in that age group in the latest survey are less likely to vote by 16 percentage points than four years ago.

“As enthusiasm for voting continues to slip among America’s 18- to 29-year olds, the IOP’s latest poll shows a clear sentiment by young adults that Washington is broken,” Trey Grayson, director of the Institute of Politics, said in a statement.

Voters under 30 trust Obama more than Romney on issues including the economy, women’s and youth concerns, and foreign policy, the poll shows.

Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, 42, as his running mate hurt more than helped the Republican ticket among young voters, according to the survey. Nine percent of respondents said Ryan made them “much more likely” to vote for Romney, while 40 percent said the selection made them “much less likely” to support him.

Harvard’s survey of 2,123 U.S. citizens who are 18 to 29 years old was conducted between Sept. 19 and Oct. 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. Obama, 51, and Romney, 65, squared off in their first debate Oct. 3 in Denver, and dueled in their second debate last night in Hempstead, New York. They are to meet for their final face-off Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Florida.

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