I wrote yesterday that the new polling just released by Harvard’s Institute of Politics shows that young Obama supporters continue to say they will volunteer on his behalf despite misgivings with how the president is handling a number of issues.  For many young people, the bloom is off the Obama rose.

Many young adults are not happy with the country’s current direction.  At the moment, less than one in four (23%) 18 to 29 year-olds believe things are generally headed in the right direction, 37 percent say things are off on the wrong track — with a slight plurality (39%) unsure which direction the country is headed.   Nearly two-in-five (37%) Democrats  believe the U.S. is headed in the right direction, which contrasts sharply to Republicans (6%) and Independents (15%).

The economy is unquestionably the top national issue of concern for young people today.  Almost half of 18-29-year olds today (48%) say economic issues are their foremost concern, more than double the second highest issue (health care: 21%) and nearly five times the third highest (War: 10%).  Young people have little faith in Washington’s efforts to resuscitate the economy. More young Americans believe that the government’s efforts will hurt (30%) rather than help (26%) their financial situation, and a plurality, 41 percent, say these efforts will have no impact.

The issue that shows the biggest rift between Obama and young voters is Afghanistan. An overwhelming majority disagree with the President’s recent decision to send 30,000 additional American troops.  Less than one-third (31%) favor such a decision and 66 percent oppose it according to the November 4 to 16 poll, which was before Obama had announced his final troop surge decision. Among only the 18 to 24 year-olds in the survey, there was slightly more opposition to the troop buildup off college campuses than on campus.

Despite the intense national debate, the issue of health care reform has not dominated the political landscape of the average young voter aged 18 to 29.  Quite the contrary, as less than one-in-ten (8%) are following the discussions in Washington on this subject closely (34% following them somewhat closely, 33% not very closely and 23% not at all).  The percentages are nearly identical on college campuses.

John Della Volpe is the Director of Polling for the Institute of Politics.  He says the numbers show that “If nothing else, this generation is fiercely independent and should not be taken for granted. Young people are no longer outliers — their opinions of Obama fall in line with rest of USA.”  He feels that “our government and our political parties need to continually challenge and inspire young adults.”

Don Tapscott