A Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll of Americans age 18 to 24 found Bush's approval rating was 20 percent, with 53 percent disapproving and 28 percent with no opinion. . . .
Much like Franklin Roosevelt attracted a new generation of voters with the New Deal, Bush and his administration have had high hopes of drawing younger voters to his party. He has sought to do that through policy initiatives aimed at creating an ``ownership society,'' and public relations tactics like a Youth Convention at the party's 2004 national convention, in which his twin daughters took the stage.
Among the initiatives aimed at drawing a new generation into the Republican fold are health-care savings accounts, elimination of the so-called marriage penalty in the U.S. tax code, and Bush's proposal to create private investment accounts from a portion of Social Security payroll taxes. . . .
Instead, the Social Security initiative flopped in Congress after attracting criticism from the public and lawmakers of both parties, and health-care savings accounts haven't done much to expand coverage, with only about 1 percent of the U.S. population currently participating in them.
I think young people have more immediate concerns than social security and long-term savings plans. They're worried about the cost of education, the cost of energy, the cost of housing, and the cost of healthcare. (Bush's healthcare savings accounts are a good idea, but as I understand them, these accounts don't address the larger problem of escalating healthcare costs; they just give people a little extra help paying the bills.) And while 18-24-year-olds are not necessarily "liberal" (in the cable news sense of the word), they do seem to take an interest in protecting the environment and don't seem to get worked up about same-sex marriage.
While 20% approval among young adults is an embarrassment for Bush, I don't think he is alone in alienating young voters. American politics is still by, for, and about Baby Boomers. Political rhetoric is driven by notions of "liberal" and "conservative" that are native to the seventies and eighties; Cold War dualism still permeates American foreign policy and fuels domestic culture clashes.
Until people born in the 1970s step into leadership roles at the federal level, don't expect major American political leaders to poll well among college-age young adults.