Young adults plan to go to the polls in force this fall because they don't think elected officials represent their interests, the president of a polling firm that focuses on people ages 18-29 said Wednesday.
Paul Conway, the president of Generation Opportunity and former U.S. Department of Labor chief of staff, is in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. His group is nonpartisan, so he also was in Tampa last week for the Republican National Convention.
"Some suggest (young people) are disinterested and maybe will sit this (election) out," Conway said. "We see exactly the opposite. Here in North Carolina alone, 79 percent of young adults say they will participate in the presidential election, which is a massive number."
A surge of young voters helped carry President Barack Obama to victory in 2008, but their concerns might not guarantee a reprise in November.
New polling by Generation Opportunity shows that – as with the population in general – jobs and unemployment are the primary concerns for people ages 18-29:
- 88 percent of them in North Carolina have changed some aspect of their daily lives because of the economy, from cutting back on entertainment or food to driving less to moving in with their families or even selling their cars or other items.
- 79 percent have delayed life decisions like buying a house, starting a family or retirement planning because of economic uncertainty.
- 79 percent also said the lack of job opportunities is shrinking the American middle class.
Conway said unemployment among the group is 12.7 percent, which is the highest since World War II. If people not actively looking for work are included, he said, the figure rises to 16.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the poll shows that only slightly more than a third of young adults say current political leaders reflect their interests.
"Traditionally, you have one, two or even three options of full-time jobs in your career path," he said. "The new reality is a series of part-time jobs below your skill level and training – and actually sometimes outside of your profession. So right from the start, as a generation, these folks are in a substantively different position.