Just hours before President Barack Obama took to prime time for a press conference in which he vowed that his administration was attacking the economic crisis "on all fronts," a new poll from the nonprofit public-research organization Democracy Corps showed that young people are strongly supporting the president's recovery bill.
By a margin of 68-20, the respondents to the survey told pollsters that they believe the stimulus plan will work. Of the 606 people aged 18-29 surveyed in late February and early March through traditional land lines, cell phones and online, 42 percent said they thought the part of the stimulus plan that had the best chance of positively impacting their lives was its efforts to make college more affordable, followed by the $400 tax break for individuals and the $800 break for couples.
"What you're seeing is that young people not only supported Obama in high numbers during the election, but that their overall support for him is being maintained while we're seeing a drop overall in his favorability ratings, which you'd expect to see as the business of governing begins," said Anna Greenberg, Senior Vice President of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, the company that conducts research for Democracy Corps. "He has more latitude with younger people, which translates into more support than older voters."
According to a recent CNN poll, the national average of support for the president's overall economic plan was 65 percent, with only 54 percent saying they were in favor of the stimulus efforts.
While pundits, the media and modern-day tea-party organizers have been raising alarms over the administration's announcement that it plans to halve the ballooning $1.3 trillion budget deficit by 2012, while borrowing more than $9 trillion over the next decade, Greenberg said she was not surprised by the young respondents' support for the Obama team's outlook. "Part of it is partisan, because younger people supported Obama in higher numbers [during the election]," she said. "But they also pay less attention to the traditional news, and they're not necessarily watching Fox New or MSNBC 24/7." On the other hand, Greenberg noted that in the survey, almost half (45 percent) said they watched the president's first prime-time address on February 24 and 75 percent said they're following the administration's moves closely.
But Greenberg also noted that the demographic polled in the survey has much higher unemployment rates than the U.S. average, count many more part-time or reduced-hour laborers in their numbers and are more financially insecure than the average American. "Any stimulus to the economy will see a more direct impact with them because this group is living on credit and they don't have 401(k)s or real estate to worry about, so those issues have less impact on them," she said.
Deficit spending is on everyone's minds, but the young Americans in the survey said that they believe the success of the economic recovery over the long term is more dependent on making investments in the failing institutions.
That was the message Obama tried to portray during Tuesday night's press conference, in which he explained that "it took many years and many failures to lead us here. And it will take many months and many different solutions to lead us out. There are no quick fixes, and there are no silver bullets." Despite the hard work he foresees to bring the country out of the crisis, Obama pledged, "We'll recover from this recession, but it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that, when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have towards each other, that's when we succeed."
As Republicans, and an increasing number of Democrats, in Congress prepare to pore over, and cut down, the president's plans, he repeatedly tried to reassure Americans that his was the right way forward, as he urged those who disagree with his vision to present another way out of the worst financial crisis in generations.
And while most expected the question-and-answer session to focus almost exclusively on the budget, Obama also fielded preselected questions on everything from his support for stem-cell research to the drug violence in Mexico and race relations, but, pointedly, not specific ones about the war in Iraq or terrorism.