In the final days before the 2012 election, President Barack Obama and his campaign are engaging in a last-ditch effort to encourage young people to get to the polls and vote to reelect Obama — but it might be too late.
As POLITICO reports the President, his campaign staff and a number of celebrities are focusing on attracting the youth vote, using college campus rallies, web videos and TV ads, TV appearances and free concerts to get young people, who lean Left, to the polls.
The President does not hold as as much favor with the young adult demographic as he did in 2008. Obama is just 19 percentage points ahead of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, versus the 34 point margin victory by which he beat Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.
The main reason for this difference from the last presidential election is the economy. The youth unemployment rate stood far above the national average in September at 11.8 percent and has been consistently higher than at any other time in American history since WWII.
As a result, young adults are becoming more fiscally conservative, even as many of them hold liberal views on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, reports the Associated Press.
“Ultimately, I’m voting with my pocketbook,” one college student told AP.
The Associated Press also noted research from Chicago-based research company TRU that revealed unemployment to be the top concern among young people. By comparison it was the fifth highest concern in 2008.
Tina Wells, head of Buzz Marketing, an agency tracking the views of younger demographics, confirmed to AP that the economic collapse is the reason more young Americans — especially those just old enough to vote in their first presidential election — are labeling themselves as conservative, moderate or independent.
Furthermore, Obama has hurt his standing among youth by not following through on the ‘hope’ and ‘change’ rhetoric that drew in so many young people in 2008.
As a candidate in 2008 Obama promised to cut the deficit in half, which he did not do as President.
“I agree with the president on social issues. I really do, and I think a lot of us are free-thinking in that way. But it’s kind of gotten to the point where it’s like triage. It’s, like, okay, the economy’s most important to me,” Washington and Lee University Student Caitlin Tyree told CNN.
In spite Obama’s push to get out the youth vote, he might be speaking over the heads of many young Americans even when he does try to talk about the economy.
During an MTV interview last Friday, Obama spent the majority of his on-air time talking about issues of little importance to youth voters, such as the auto-industry bailout, clean energy and using money saved by ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to “put people to work on roads and bridges.” This echoes his out-of-touch response during the town hall debate, when college student Jeremy Epstein asked about post-graduation employment and the President began talking about the manufacturing industry without even inquiring about Epstein’s major.
Education is another topic on which Obama has failed to connect with young voters. One of his major 2012 campaign promises is “cutting tuition growth in half over the next ten years,” but his exact strategy for making this happen is vague and unclear.
Despite Obama’s desire to capture the youth vote like he did in 2008, his failure to substantially lower the unemployment rate among 18-29 year olds and make college more affordable for students has driven young voters to the candidate with the necessary business experience to get America back on track. Though Romney will clearly not win the youth vote nationally this year, his ability to reduce Obama’s share of the youth vote by nearly half is a clear sign that young Americans are giving the Republican Party a second look.