In a move that the White House would probably call both “unexpected” and “unprecedented,”  (because they call just about everything “unexpected” and “unprecedented”) the latest Pew research study indicates that President Obama’s Democratic Party may be losing its stranglehold on young voters of the millennial generation (aged 18-34)

Millennials were huge in helping the democrats build their majority in 2006 and 2008 elections. The held over a two to one advantage advantage over the GOP just two years ago (62% to 30%), but by the end of the year the 32 point margin shrunk to 14 points(54% to 40%) .

The unusual part of this trend, is that this group of young voters still strongly identify themselves with the liberal agenda greater support for government in general, and somewhat lower levels of support for an assertive national security policy compared with other generations.

Young voters were Barack Obama’s strongest supporters in the 2008, but the Democratic Party’s advantage among Millennials predates Obama’s emergence on the political scene. Indeed, they had been the party’s best age group in both the 2004 and 2006 elections.

The most recent party affiliation data (from the fourth quarter of 2009) show that in terms of straight partisan identification, Democrats held a 36% to 24% lead over the GOP among Millennial voters, a significantly narrower edge than the nearly two-to-one margin (41% vs. 22%) in 2008.[unlike the numbers above, these do not include leaners)  At the same time, the percentage of Millennials who said they lean Republican has nearly doubled, from 8% in 2008 to 15% at the end of 2009. There was little change in the percentage who leaned Democratic (20% in 2008 vs. 18% in late 2009). While the Democratic Party has a larger advantage among Millennials than it does among the two oldest cohorts, a greater proportion of the party’s support comes from people who do not explicitly identify as Democrats but only lean toward the party.
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In another sign of sagging enthusiasm for the Democrats, Obama’s job approval rating slipped substantially over the past year among Millennials as well as among older age groups. Millennials were by far Obama’s strongest age group in the 2008 election — supporting him by about a two-to-one margin over John McCain, according to national exit polls. And in February 2009, 73% of Millennials approved of Obama’s job performance — the highest percentage in any age group. One year later, in February 2010, just 57% of Millennials give Obama a positive rating; still, Obama’s ratings among Millennials are eight points higher than among Generation Xers and Baby Boomers (49% each) and 19 points higher than among those in the Silent Generation (38%).

 While the younger voters remain liberal (and will probably remain so), the rapid shift away from the Democrats and President Obama is important to note. After all they are some of his ardent supporters, and this significant shift in the first year of an Obama Presidency is a repudiation of his policies.

Click here to read the full study