Democrat Barack Obama is the overwhelming favorite of young people to win the coming presidential election, according to a study released Wednesday.

A survey of 18 to 24 year olds conducted by Harvard University found that Obama commands a 26 percent lead over Republican candidate John McCain.

"The remarkable youth voter turnout in the primary process underscored the historic role young people are playing in the political process this year," Harvard’s Institute of Politics director Bill Purcell said in a written statement.

The survey, which was conducted on the Internet between September 12 and October 6 of this year, is the latest in a series of polls Harvard has been conducting to gauge youth voting trends.

The survey also found that McCain’s choice for running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had an adverse affect on his support, with 40 percent of the youths saying her selection made them less likely to support the ticket.

Not surprised in the least by the findings, William A. Galston, a senior fellow and chair of governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said he was not surprised by the findings.

" If you go back ever further, young adults have (been) trending towards liberalism, towards the Democratic Party for ten years now," said Galston, who was a senior adviser on past-Democratic presidential contender Al Gore’s campaign.

Galston gave credit to former President Bill Clinton’s administration, which provided "a very positive, formative experience … (and) increased their confidence in government and the Democratic Party."

Breaking party lines, a majority of the Harvard poll participants — whether Democrats, Republicans or independents — said Clinton was the president they would like to see the next president model himself after.

Other survey findings:

— The economy was the dominant issue amongst the participants. TThe economy is the top concern (for young voters)," John Della Volpe, director of polling at IOP, adding that the survey was in progress during the start of the current financial crisis.

Galston said this, too, did not surprise him. "If I were a young (person) thinking about getting out of school and finding a job, I’d be plenty worried right now. I’d be amazed if it weren’t at the top of the list of concerns," he said.

— The number of young people who identified the Iraq war as their top concern has fallen, from 37 percent this time last year, to 9 percent now.

— Almost six out of every 10 of the young people said they were interested in engaging in some form of public service.

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