Washington — Young Americans age 18-24 are ripe targets for Republicans during their convention next week, according to a poll released Monday by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
A majority of the young people interviewed in the nationwide survey revealed themselves to be conservative in their choice of political party, presidential candidate and positions on the issues.
At the same time, however, they said they felt disconnected from the political process. The telephone survey of 1,008 18- to 24-year-olds was performed for Medill in late June by the Campaign Strategy Group, a consulting firm. The poll's margin of error was 5 percent.
The GOP holds the early advantage in the contest for the youth vote: 44 percent of these so-called "Generation Y" members said they planned to vote for George W. Bush for president, while only 32 percent said that they would choose Democrat Al Gore.
Similarly, a strong plurality of 41 percent said they felt some allegiance to the Republican Party, while only 28 percent leaned toward the Democratic Party.
In keeping with those preferences, more than two-thirds of the survey respondents described themselves as generally conservative or moderate, while less than one-third identified themselves as generally liberal.
"To the degree that we live under the myth that the young are more liberal than their parents, it's just that: a myth," said Stephen Hess, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank here.
Generation Y has grown up under conservative presidents: Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
"Even Bill Clinton had a conservative Congress and also moved to the center or the right in the Democratic Party," Hess said.
Simultaneously, younger voters have shifted toward conservative politics in recent years -- much like their parents. Young people today may appear to be more liberal than their elders -- with blue hair, nose rings and rap music -- but their tastes in fashion do not necessarily mirror their political views, Hess said.
Their conservatism is especially evident in their positions on key social issues: nearly two-thirds of those interviewed said they favored a law requiring women under 18 to notify their parents before getting an abortion. Thirty percent said they would use the national budget surplus to pay down the debt, while only 20 percent said they would spend it on domestic programs. Three-fourths approved of tax-subsidized vouchers for children to attend private schools, a cornerstone of the Bush campaign.
Even so, there were some notable exceptions to the conservative trend: two-thirds said gays should be admitted to the military, and more favored passing new gun control laws rather than enforcing existing laws more strictly.
But it may not matter where Generation Y stands on anything.
Experts predict that less than 30 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds will turn out in this fall's elections.