Point of View

Enthusiasm Craters for Obama Amongst Young Voters

A new poll out shows that the youth vote that helped propel President Obama to the White House in 2008 won't be there for the Democrat to bank on this fall.


Kevin Glass, Townhall.com - April 20, 2012


A new poll out shows that the youth vote that helped propel President Obama to the White House in 2008 won't be there for the Democrat to bank on this fall.

Young voters have historically preferred Democrats, but Obama's share of the youth vote in 2008 was historically large. The poll, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in conjunction with the Berkley Center at Georgetown University, finds that 48 percent of young voters prefer the President. In 2008, though, Obama won 66 percent of that youth vote - a massive drop in support for the President.

The youth vote isn't very big, but this is one more sign of waning support for the President amongst some of his most fervent supporters. It's not a big surprise: young voters' two top issues, according to the poll, are unemployment and the federal deficit. With the official unemployment rate well above 8% and over $5 trillion added to the federal debt under the Obama Administration, it's not surprising that the youth vote has soured on the President.

The Young America's Foundation recently attempted to calculate the struggles that face young Americans in the Youth Misery Index. Under President Obama, YAF figures, young Americans have had it particularly hard.

    Youth unemployment is at 17.4 percent - one of the highest levels since World War II. Average graduating student debt has reached a record-breaking $26,300. National debt per capita is $46,900 - the highest ever. Add it up, and the Youth Misery Index comes out to 90.6.

    The government is largely responsible for all three problems. We've found a statistically significant relationship between government expenditures and the Youth Misery Index; this is no coincidence. Each indicator can be tied to government actions.

The fervency of youth voters in 2008 was emblematic of the excitement felt for Barack Obama as he rode a powerful electoral wave to the White House. That they've soured on the President in response to ongoing economic struggles is no surprise. While it would be difficult for the GOP to capitalize on the youth vote, the unemployment and deficit issues that they're concerned with are largely the same ones that concern all Americans.

In the same vein, I noted back on January 22 that "the problem is that the moderation of [Romney's] temperament reinforces what GOP true believers distrust most about him -- the moderation (or perceived moderation) of his policies."

It seems obvious in retrospect that Romney was simply trying hard to come across as likable, in order to remain at least the second choice of a critical portion of the GOP primary electorate.  Now that the only opponent left is Obama, the hard-edged Romney (who had little reluctance to go after any rival who seemed to threaten his hold on the nomination) will be back.

In fact, the concerns about Romney -- that he'll be a "wimp" -- are reminiscent of those about George H.W. Bush.  In my view, it's a socioeconomic thing -- both come off as patrician, and because of that fact, many Americans believe that their privileged backgrounds have made them too "soft," in some sense, to fight.

This assumption is often shared by their opponents, to their detriment.  It's a mistake.  Successful men in the "patrician" class, in my judgment, can be some of the toughest opponents of all, because they often have something to prove, and no excuse or justification in their own minds for failure (after all, they've been given "everything" for their entire lives).  Recall that the supposedly "wimpy" George H.W. Bush didn't hesitate to make mincemeat of Michael Dukakis. 

The problem with the first President Bush came only after he won, when he believed that it was necessary and wise to compromise with Democrats who had no interest in his (or the country's success).  It's a mistake that Romney is unlikely to repeat, especially given that if he wins, his presidency will come after the disaster that is President Obama, rather than having the luxury of succeeding the successfulRonald Reagan.



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