We have covered the steady reports concerning the loss of enthusiasm for President Obama among young Americans.
In The College Fix, St. John’s College scholar Ian Tuttle analyzes recent polls concerning his demographic group and concludes his generation is finding that electing a successful businessman to the White Office has its appeal.
Everyone now seems to get their 15 minutes of fame, and Jeremy Epstein had his recently.
Epstein was one of 82 undecided voters selected by the Gallup polling organization to attend Hofstra University’s townhall-style presidential debate. And Epstein, a junior at Adelphi University, had the first question of the night:
President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?
That’s the question on most college students’ minds these days. As the Class of 2012 walked the stage earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that “53.6 percent of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in 11 years.” Meanwhile, a survey by Twentysomething, Inc., found that 85 percent of college seniors in 2012 planned to move back into their parents’ homes after graduation—a trend reflected in a December 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center that found that 53 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are living, or have lived, with their parents during the last few years.
That may explain some underreported news in recent polls: At National Review Online, Kristen Soltis Anderson, vice president of the Winston Group, a D.C.-based polling and consulting firm, reports that the Pew Research Center study released Oct. 8 shows that the 34-point margin of victory with the youth vote Obama scored over John McCain in the 2008 presidential election has been halved; he now leads Mitt Romney by only 17 points.
A 17-point deficit may not seem like much reason to celebrate—but when the Obama campaign has expended millions of dollars and untold quantities of manpower trying to attract young voters (as I detailed at National Review Online this summer), this cohort’s sudden chilliness toward the president could have significant Election Day consequences. And it also demonstrates, perhaps more dramatically than any other recent trend, that the president has lost the aura of cool invincibility that appealed to so many four years ago.
President Obama captured an astounding 66 percent of the youth vote in 2008; by comparison, John Kerry managed only 54 percent of the same demographic four years before. Crossroads Generation has a simulation at its website that shows how November’s election would shift in key states depending on youth voter turnout. If young voters vote like they did in 2004, the simulator predicts Romney victories in North Carolina, Indiana, and Florida, and Obama victories of only 0.2 percent in Ohio and 0.8 percent in Virginia. If they vote like they did in 2010, the same electoral shift holds. If they vote like they did in 2000, Romney picks up Ohio—and with it, in all likelihood, the White House.
And, in the wake of Romney’s solid debate performances, that is a possibility. Anderson observes that, according to Pew, “voters 18-29 showed the largest increase in favorability toward Romney. It’s not just that they’re growing more disillusioned with Obama, they’re warming to Romney.”
But why? Undoubtedly, the fluidity of the lives of this demographic has much to do with it. The eager college freshmen who voted for Obama in 2008 are now graduated, and they face the worst job prospects since the start of the millennium. For the smattering of high school seniors able to vote in 2008, they will receive their diplomas next spring, and similarly dismal employment prospects await them. Contrary to popular belief, Starbucks barista positions are not unlimited.
The anxiety of unemployment is compounded by massive student loan debt. The California-based Institute for College Access and Success recently reported that two-thirds of 2011 graduates were in debt at graduation, and the average student owed $26,600—a 5-percent increase from the year before. And this even in the wake of the federal government’s takeover of student loan debt and Congress’s constant battles over student loan interest rates.
The options for these students are bleak: Some are deciding to enter graduate school, rather than take their chances in the market, thus saddling themselves with more debt and diminishing the worth of advanced degrees; others are taking jobs, in coffee shops, gyms, and at front desks, for which they are wildly over-credentialed; and the rest are moving back in with mom and dad.
That takes a psychological toll. Four years after they cast an “historic” ballot for Obama, many young voters have discovered the hard way that the current administration’s economic policies have left them jobless and broke.
And they’re finding that the businessman running across the aisle might be worth a look. If the polls are right, they’re liking what they see.