Washington (CNN) – Young adults will be a deciding factor in the midterm elections, and with just two months until November, their votes are still up for grabs, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
The bipartisan poll, which was commissioned by Rock the Vote, found that young adults are paying close attention to the election – about 77 percent of those surveyed said they were either very likely or somewhat likely to vote. And like older Americans, they are frustrated with the status quo.
"This generation relates to candidates more than political parties, and as a result, despite voting for Obama 2-1, they are less concerned with which party will win in 2010 and instead gravitate toward the candidate who speaks most clearly and directly to their interests and concerns," said Rock the Vote President Heather Smith.
This presents an unprecedented opportunity for both parties to connect with young voters, who are "out there to be mobilized," Smith said.
Rock the Vote is running an aggressive voter registration campaign this cycle. The group hopes to quadruple its 2006 registration levels by registering at least 200,000 young people to vote, Smith said.
According to the poll, Democrats have a 9-point advantage over Republicans among young adults, but that is down from an 18-point advantage in 2008. And 35 percent of those surveyed said they identified as Democrats, 26 percent said Republican, and 29 percent said independent.
More important than party affiliation, this year will be that candidates effectively communicate their positions on key issues like unemployment, the national debt, American dependence on foreign oil, global warming, comprehensive sex education, and the legalization of gay marriage, said progressive pollster John Anzalone, of Anzalone Liszt Research.
And despite their drop in favorability, Anzalone said that Democratic candidates can retain young voters through targeted, strategic communication.
"In past election cycles we've heard about soccer moms and NASCAR dads, but in this cycle Democrats would be wise to target young people. Since moderates and independents are leaning Republican going into the November midterms, Democrats should appeal once again to the young people ages 18 to 29, who have not given up on them since the 2008 election," Anzalone said. "Candidates who neglect young people are taking a major risk, as they will be the swing group for either party in 2010."
Nonetheless, the poll indicated that self-identified Republicans seem to be more energetic this cycle, giving Republican candidates a clear advantage in November, said conservative pollster Brian Nienaber, Vice President of The Tarrance Group.
"This data makes clear that there is real value for Republican candidates to target voters under age 30," Nienaber said."These voters have an improving image of the Republican Party. In addition, the top concerns of these voters are the same pocketbook issues that are the focus of nearly every Republican candidate in the country. Thoughtful messaging and appropriate targeting could yield a significant level of support with these voters."
The pollsters also noted that those surveyed were overwhelmingly optimistic about their generation's ability to affect change, but felt more skeptical about politics than they did in 2008.
Nonetheless, with more than double the amount of young people saying they are likely to vote this year compared to in 2006, young voters could potentially have a significant impact the coming elections, Rock the Vote's Smith said.
The national survey, which was conducted jointly by Anzalone Liszt Research and The Tarrance Group from August 24-30, interviewed 1,000 randomly selected 18-29 year-olds by phone and online. The poll had a sampling error of 3.7%.