Greenberg Quinlan Rosner
Democracy Corps


Executive Summary

At a time of tightening national surveys, Barack Obama’s support among people is stable and convincing (currently 57 - 29 percent Obama). This stability rests in part on the strong belief among young people that Barack Obama can change things in this country. In a remarkable set of questions, we asked young people rate the importance of changing issues like the economy, Iraq and health care, then asked how likely these issues will changed if Obama is elected and how likely these issues will change if McCain is elected. Impressive majorities of young people defy the cynical stereotypes of this generation and predict major changes on the economy, on Iraq, on health care, on energy, even gas prices. The necessary antecedent for these changes is the election of Barack Obama. Young people do not believe John McCain can bring about change.

Key Findings

  • As is the case with other groups, we see some softness in Obama’s support among white Democrats, but overall, the Obama’s margin remains stable. Progressives cannot assume young people are immune from the same dynamics that are stirring the rest of the electorate.
  • Young people remain engaged as well. We have tracked young people’s commitment to voting on a 10-point scale since June, 2007; we have never seen a higher percentage of young people describing themselves as “very likely” to vote.
  • Young people describe themselves as “more involved” in this election than in previous elections, particularly Democrats and Obama voters. At the same time, a slim majority of young people still say that politicians are not listening to the views and concerns of young people (51 percent agree).
  • It is impossible to overstate the importance of speaking specifically to the economic strain of young people. Asked to rate the importance of a series of life goals, more young people described “paying off all your debts” as very important than any other goal, including having children, getting married and becoming more spiritually fulfilled.


This population is exceptionally difficult to reach through traditional polling methods. More important, traditional polling methods are no longer a reliable way of understanding America’s young people. More than a quarter of young people do not have conventional land-line phones and many (63 percent in this survey) among those that have lines do not use them as their main service for in-coming calls. This means that most will not be reached with a land-line phone survey. Therefore, this project involves a multi-modal approach using web-based interviewing, cell phone interviewing, as well as a land-line sample. Moreover, as turn out represents such a critical variable in the political disposition of young people, this project does not screen for likely voters. Between August 7-18, 2008, Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research interviewed 600 young people, ages 18-29. This project looks at the wider population of young people and does not exclude non-voters or unlikely voters. As this population is very difficult to survey, this project involved a multi-mode design including cell phone interviewing (60 interviews), web based research (240 interviews) and telephone surveys (300 interviews) using a random digit dial sample.