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Poll shows age gaps and agreements

The combined efforts of the New York Times, CBS News and MTV afford those of us of another generation a look at what those of the ages between 17 and 29 think about a wide spectrum of issues. The results for the most part are not too surprising.

Given the strong feeling against U.S. involvement in Iraq among older Americans, I was interested in seeing that 51 percent of respondents to the new poll of younger people said they believed the United States was very likely or somewhat likely to succeed in Iraq. Among adults only 45 percent came to that conclusion. This finding, however, is consistent with similar support for presidents during the time of war in Korea and Vietnam. I have to wonder if this is due to the optimism of younger people or deeply rooted loyalty to the United States. I am not certain.

A total of 659 people were polled by phone in the undertaking by the three sponsoring organizations. Although the number of interviews was relatively small, the polling experts say that the margin of error is only four percent.

This poll of young people indicates once again a drift away from support of the Republican Party, with 54 percent saying they intend to vote for a Democrat for president in 2008. The poll respondents gave President Bush a 28 percent approval rating and indicated a much more positive view of Democrats than they do of Republicans, a decided shift of trends prior to the Iraqi incursion by the United States.

By a 52 to 36 majority, those polled said that Democrats came closer than Republicans to sharing their moral values and 79 percent said they felt the country was on the wrong track. Ever optimistic, 77 percent said they believed their generation would have a significant bearing on who becomes the next president.

I was particularly intrigued by responses to questions on whom they believed they would vote for as a presidential candidate. Sixty-eight percent said they would vote for someone who smoked marijuana while only 22 percent would cast a vote for someone who has used cocaine. And while 66 percent would vote for a black candidate and 59 percent for a woman, only 28 percent would vote for a Mormon and 25 percent for a gay or a lesbian.

In other areas of general interest, there are some similarities in the opinions of the 17 to 29 age group and those of the adults measured in previous polls. But there are also areas where the two groups differ markedly. Both age groupings feel pretty much the same on global warming with the younger group indicating that 54 percent of them believe it is a very serious problem. All adults feel just about the same, with 52 percent saying it is a very serious problem. Surprisingly, the two age groupings feel just about the same on abortion, with 37 percent of the younger people saying it should be available to those who want it and 39 percent of all adults agreeing with that position.

The big divide comes on health care, with 62 percent of the 17 to 29 group favoring one health insurance program covering all Americans and 47 percent of adults opposed to that position. The adult population polls have shown they want the current situation to prevail. On the matter of marriage for gay couples, younger people are more favorable with 44 percent approving of it as opposed to only 28 percent of adults.

On the matter of presidential candidates, 18 percent said they were enthusiastic about Barack Obama and 17 percent Hillary Clinton. Only 4 percent of the respondents said the same about Rudy Giuliani. A surprisingly high percentage, 43 percent, of those polled had an unfavorable view of Sen. Clinton, with only 19 percent expressing that feeling about Sen. Obama.

Murray B. Light is the former editor of The Buffalo News

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