Rasmussen’s new Virginia poll confirms the pattern that has shown up in previous surveys: younger voters really don’t like Paul Ryan. His overall unfavorability in Virginia is 45%, but among the 18-39 cohort it is 60%. His favorability with the same group is a paltry 27%, which is roughly the same amount of support Romney receives from this group in the match-up with Obama. When asked what “scares them more” about the future of Medicare, the 18-39 group chooses Ryan’s proposal over the ACA 61-25%. By contrast, older voters tend to be more alarmed by the ACA by large margins. Among respondents 65+, the margin is 21 points. These responses match each group’s voting preferences quite closely. Republican Medicare demagoguery may be more effective because the health care bill has already been signed into law while Ryan’s proposal remains entirely theoretical and is probably not very well-understood.
As I’ve said before, I don’t think Ryan’s unpopularity with younger voters has very much to do with Ryan’s specific proposals, which most Americans apparently do not associate with him anyway. It has almost everything to do with his partisan affiliation and the partisan and ideological leanings of younger voters. Likewise, older voters favor Ryan and fear his Medicare reform less than the ACA because they are already inclined to oppose Obama and support his opponent. For most younger voters, Ryan is on the other “side,” and that would probably be enough by itself.
Since the GOP is doing so badly with the 18-39 group (down 41 points in Virginia, according to this survey), it makes sense for them as a matter of electoral politics to return to the 2010 strategy of demagoguing changes to Medicare in an effort to mobilize older voters behind them. They are banking on older voters’ being more likely to vote and depressed turnout among younger voters. So far, the GOP’s large margins with older voters is what is keeping them competitive.