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Locally and nationally, millennials are wary of Affordable Care Act, unhappy with Congress

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A majority of millennials — those age 18 to 29 — do not approve of the Affordable Care Act, the performance of President Barack Obama or the U.S. Congress, according to a survey conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics.

Reactions to the results in the north country reveal similar frustrations, although there are supporters of President Obama’s signature health-care legislation.

The survey, released by the institute Wednesday, reveals disillusionment with the political establishment, a phenomenon polling director John Della Volpe said was not surprising given past data.

“Young Americans hold the president, Congress and the federal government in less esteem almost by the day, and the levels of engagement they are having in politics are also on the decline,” Mr. Della Volpe said in a news release.

The Harvard survey found that a “solid majority” of millennials disapprove of the health care reform package regardless of what it is called — 56 percent disapprove of the “Affordable Care Act,” 57 percent disapprove of “Obamacare” — and 52 percent of millennials would vote to recall all members of Congress if they could.

President Obama’s job approval rating was pegged at 41 percent — the lowest since the start of his presidency, according to the survey.

Politicians, political hopefuls and students from Northern New York, some millennials and some not, voiced their viewpoints Wednesday.

“For me personally, I think it’s a bad thing,” said Jefferson Community College student Stephanie M. Weed, 23, of the Affordable Care Act.

Ms. Weed is putting herself through college by working at a local restaurant and said her employer cut her hours because if she works more than 30 hours a week, the restaurant will have to provide health insurance, which would be too expensive.

Ms. Weed is uninsured and said that she has not yet tried to sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance marketplaces.

“I’m waiting until after finals,” she said.

She was joined in her criticism of the law by Madelyn Y. Cabrera, 19, who is studying criminal justice at JCC in hopes of becoming a state trooper.

But Mrs. Cabrera has health insurance through her husband, who is a soldier.

She objects to the law on more philosophic terms. She doesn’t think the government should mandate that people buy insurance.

Mrs. Cabrera also said she felt that federal representatives were out of touch with their constituents.

“They are not enforcing popular democracy as much as they should, they are elite as I see it. They enforce things that people don’t want,” Mrs. Cabrera said.

Neither Ms. Weed nor Mrs. Cabrera voted for President Obama.

For engineering student John W. Pettit, 19, however, the Affordable Care Act is a good thing.

“I think it’s a good use of tax dollars, which is a lot better than what they’re being used for,” Mr. Pettit said. “It’s a lot better for people getting access to health care. It’s better for more people.”

Mr. Pettit said that he was mostly satisfied with President Obama’s performance in office.

“He’s sticking to most of the ideals he presented when he was trying to get elected,” Mr. Pettit said. “He’s doing the best he can.”

Mr. Pettit faulted Congress for the perceived dysfunction in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who voted for the Affordable Care Act, said he empathized with frustrations felt by millennials with the implementation of the legislation but that he was standing by his vote.

The health-care law will be beneficial in the long run, Mr. Owens said.

“I’m a bit frustrated too. I’m not very happy with the rollout either,” Mr. Owens said. “But people are not focused on what we’re trying to accomplish, which is lower costs, better health care. Those are the things I need to be focused on long-term.”

For Republican Congressional candidate Elise M. Stefanik, who is aiming at Mr. Owens’s seat in 2014, the survey results highlight the anti-incumbent sentiment being felt across the country.

“What really struck me is that less than one in five young adults thinks the country is heading in the right direction. They find the failure of leadership in Washington goes beyond partisanship,” Ms. Stefanik said.

At 29, Ms. Stefanik just made the millennial cut. She said she was a member of the Harvard institute’s survey committee while she was a student there.

And for former St. Lawrence County Emergency Services director Joseph M. Gilbert, who resigned in September to run as a Republican for the 21st Congressional District, the survey brought much needed attention to long-standing problems with the size of the federal government and the Affordable Care Act.

“The only surprise here is that it took so long for the Millennials to wake up to what’s going on. But, instead of withdrawing from the political process, we need these Americans involved and engaged to change the system they are so fed up with,” Mr. Gilbert said.

Millennials are also concerned about student debt and balancing the federal budget, according to the survey.

They are unsure about the legacy of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed secrets about the NSA’s domestic data collection program: 22 percent of those surveyed associated him with the word “patriot,” 22 percent with the word “traitor,” and 52 percent said they were unsure about his legacy.

Mr. Della Volpe said the results should not be interpreted as apathy on the part of young voters, though engagement appears to be on the decline.

“People are disappointed because they are passionate,” Mr. Della Volpe said during a conference call about the survey results. “They care deeply about their country and their government.”

See survey results here: http://wdt.me/wVY7Jq

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