BY JOHN FUND — A new poll from the youth group Rock the Vote confirms what I have noticed at the political rallies I’ve attended this year: Young people aren’t nearly as energized about politics as they were in 2008 and many of them are disappointed at Barack Obama’s performance in office.

When Mr. Obama became president, he had a sky-high approval rating of 73% with voters in their 20s. Now it’s down to 56%. Even more troubling is that the Rock the Vote survey found support for Democrats has plunged 18 percentage points since 2008, a decline that has been confirmed by young people swinging to the GOP in recent statewide elections in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts. Today, only 35% of young voters consider themselves Democrats, while 26% opt for the GOP and 29% declare themselves independent. The Democratic lead on Election Day could be even smaller given that 61% of young Republicans declare themselves enthusiastic about their party, as opposed to only 51% of young Democrats.

“It’s a drastic move down for the Democrats,” liberal pollster John Anzalone, who helped conduct the Rock the Vote survey, told Politics Daily. He says the bad economy has refocused the attention of young people on jobs and taxes rather than universal health care or social issues.

“There is real value for Republican candidates to target voters under age 30. These voters have an improving image of the Republican Party,” says Brian Nienaber, Mr. Anzalone’s conservative counterpart in doing the survey. “The top concerns of these voters are the same pocketbook issues that are the focus of nearly every Republican candidate in the country.”

It seems like just yesterday that Mr. Obama was thrilling young audiences with a campaign built around inspiring them to get involved. Now if they get involved, it may be to throw his friends in Congress out of office for failing to deliver on their “hope and change” mantra.

John Fund is a journalist for the Wall Street Journal 

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