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updated 9/21/2006 5:59:21 PM ET 2006-09-21T21:59:21

Young voters got a huge dose of attention in the 2004 cycle. But in a non-presidential election, when turnout is generally lower in every age group, the under-30 crowd seems like less of a target.

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It shouldn't be that way, according to a new survey sponsored by a George Washington University group called Young Voter Strategies. It surveyed 650 18- to 30-year-olds and used bipartisan pollsters to design the poll and interpret the results.

Just for starters, giving up on young voters would sacrifice a huge potential bloc. Eight in 10 of the survey's respondents, including 72 percent of Latinos and 85 percent of African Americans, said they were registered to vote.

They often followed the same patterns as the general population. Solid majorities said the country was off on the wrong track and disapproved of President Bush's job performance. They want candidates to address bread-and-butter issues -- health care, gas prices, the war in Iraq -- but reported that they aren't hearing much on the topics.

And they also claim to be just as attuned to the upcoming contests as the rest of the country. About two-thirds said they're paying at least some attention to the midterms, and 18 percent said they're paying at lot of attention. (Almost identical numbers recently told ABC News pollsters that they were following news of the election.)

One place where they diverged, however, was in their view of Congress. Fifty-three percent said they approved of the job federal legislators are doing -- nearly double the numbers in many recent general surveys. They preferred congressional Democrats to congressional Republicans on every issue in the poll, including homeland security and terrorism -- until it came to "moral and value-based issues," when they chose the GOP.

Not surprisingly, young people leaned a little further to the left than the general public on the election. Democrats won big in the generic matchup, coming out ahead of the GOP by more than 20 points, although a hefty 35 percent said they were still undecided.

If that wasn't enough to tempt Democrats looking for an opportunity, the poll offered one more lure: young respondents' opinions of the political parties. Sixty-five percent reported a favorable impression of the Democratic Party, but only about half said the same of the GOP.

Campaign Check: The Squeakers
It's down to the wire, it's neck and neck, it's a dead heat -- a slew of cliches get yanked out of the closet and dusted off when it's time to discuss the really close races. And this year, with control of Congress hanging in the balance, the aphorisms are already in heavier rotation than usual.

A handful of the tightest races showed up in this week's round of state polling. (A note on methodology: State polls tend to have smaller sample sizes, because smaller organizations with less money are sponsoring the polls. But limited sample sizes also mean bigger margins of error, so state polls often see more fluctuation than big national ones.)

  • Iowa Governor: It was all tied up in the Hawkeye State early last week, when a Selzer & Co. poll put Jim Nussle (R) and Chet Culver (D) at 44 percent each. But Culver enjoyed a 5-point lead on Nussle in a Research 2000 poll from the same time.
  • New Jersey Senate: State Sen. Tom Kean (R) led incumbent Bob Menendez (D) by 3 points among likely voters in a Quinnipiac poll. Registered voters flipped the margin, with 38 percent choosing Kean and 41 percent choosing Menendez.
  • Ohio Senate: Two new polls show Sen. Mike DeWine (R) and Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) locked within spitting distance of each other. Brown was ahead by 4 points in the University of Cincinnati's Ohio Poll and just 1 point in a Quinnipiac University survey.
  • Rhode Island Senate: Incumbent Lincoln Chafee, coming off his victory in last week's GOP primary, might have been sobered by the news from an American Research Group poll that he's trailing his Democratic opponent -- but only slightly. Sheldon Whitehouse got 45 percent compared with Chafee's 40 percent. A new Brown University poll, on the other hand, showed them statistically tied, with Chafee down by just 1 point.

Gwen Glazer is managing editor at nationaljournal.com

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.

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