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updated 3/9/2010 1:56:45 PM ET 2010-03-09T18:56:45

Young adult Americans are financially anxious, worried that they cannot meet their educational, housing and health care needs, according to a new poll.

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The poll by Harvard's Institute of Politics found that six out of 10 of those surveyed worry they may not meet their current bills and obligations. Almost half of those attending college wonder whether they will be able to afford to stay in school. More than eight out of 10 said they expect difficulty finding a job after graduation.

Fewer than half said they believe they would be better off than their parents when they reach their parents' age.

With the country in the midst of a slow economic recovery and near 10 percent unemployment, the data reveal an intense sense of gloom among 18-29 year olds. The grim mood could have immediate political consequences, and it also could shape that generation's long-term faith in government and in its ability to improve their daily lives.

The Web-enabled poll surveyed 3,117 U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 29. It was conducted between Jan. 29 and Feb. 22, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Four out of 10 respondents described themselves as independent, with no political party affiliation; 36 percent affiliated themselves with Democrats and 23 percent said they considered themselves Republican. But young Republicans displayed more enthusiasm for the 2010 midterm elections, with those who said they disapproved of President Barack Obama's job performance saying they were more likely to vote than those who said they approved of his performance.

Still, Obama enjoys a 56 percent approval rating among young adults, even though majorities of 51 to 56 percent disapprove of how he has handled high-profile issues during his first year in office, including health care, the economy, the federal deficit, Iran and Afghanistan.

The distinction that these voters make between the president and the issues worries Democratic politicians who fear they will not benefit from Obama's appeal.

Nearly four out of 10 of those surveyed said the country was on the wrong track. An almost similar number said they were unsure about the country's direction. Only 23 percent said the country was headed in the right direction.

The economy dwarfed health care and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the issue that concerned young adults the most. Forty-five percent cited the economy as their top worry, while only 17 percent mentioned health care and 6 percent cited the wars.

Despite their immediate financial concerns, 51 percent of these young adults said the president and Congress should seek to keep the budget deficit down, "even though it may mean it will take longer for the economy to recover."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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