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Could America’s ‘Miserable’ Youth Decide the 2012 Election?

"...young people are miserable."

People line up at a Workforce Plus job fair, Thursday, March 26, 2009, in Tallahassee, Fla. 75,000 Floridians lost their jobs in February. The state's unemployment rate rose to 9.4 %, the highest since 1976. (Photo: AP)

With 23.7 million American workers either unemployed or underemployed and the markets continuing to hide in the shadow of the eurozone crisis, the health of the U.S. economy leaves much to be desired.

It appears unlikely that the U.S. economy will improve anytime soon and many Americans have become impatient with the Obama administration. However, perhaps more frustrated than any other group are voters ages 18-29 -- the same demographic that overwhelmingly supported the president in 2008.

And why shouldn't they be angry?

Considering the fact that youth unemployment is currently 17.4 percent, average graduating student debt is $26,300, and national debt per capita is $46,900, according to a recent study put out by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) called the Youth Misery Index (YMI), it’s no wonder that America's youth appears to be nervous, angry and scared.

The Youth Misery Index

"Young people are battling one of the worst job markets in the last century, and hundreds of billions of federal 'stimulus' dollars have failed to revive the labor market," the YMI claims. "Thanks to big government and the Obama administration, young people are miserable."

This fear and uncertainty could play a major role in the upcoming 2012 election. Poor economic conditions and failed policies have already affected the president's approval ratings and a sustained lack of support could affect him at the voting booth.

“There’s a huge correlation between support for the Obama administration and these numbers,” Ron Meyer, YAF spokesman and co-author of the YMI, told The Blaze in an interview. “Since Obama’s inauguration, the administration’s approval rating has dropped 30 percent -- down from the high 70s to now 48 (46 according to some polls).”

However, some analysts also believe President Obama's approval rating has been affected by more than just a bad economy.

“It’s been a plummet. And I think it’s for two reasons: honesty and the economy,” Meyer said. “Young people think the Obama administration has been dishonest with its policies. A lot of liberal, the young left, are disappointed that he hasn’t lived up to his lofty rhetoric.”

Watch YAF spokesman Ron Meyer explain the YMI via Fox and Friends:

“Young people are naturally skeptical of the government -- especially about transparency and corruption -- that’s why they’re so apathetic. But they gave President Obama a chance. Frankly, I think young people think the Obama administration made it worse,” Meyer said.

Many critics believe that a lack of jobs, combined with a feeling of disillusionment in the political system, has led to anger and resentment among younger voters.

“Young people know they’re angry and that’s the only thing they know for certain. They know that they are sending resumes into space and they don’t know if anybody’s even looking at them or if they’re going straight into the shredder,” Hannah Jackman, Program Director of The National Journalism Center, a training program for aspiring young journalists, told The Blaze.

“They don’t know how to vent their frustration so they channel it at corporations and think that capitalism has failed them. The truth is they should be marching on the White House,” Jackman added.

This anger has translated into not just a resentment of "big business" but also a  noticeable decline in youth support for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. If these reports are accurate, and young voters are indeed abandoning President Obama en masse, then the implications for the 2012 election could be enormous.

Recall that in 1980, President Ronald Reagan was able to win the White House with strong support from voters ages 18-29.

“Reagan brought an entire generation to the Republican Party in 1980, and in 1984 he won the youth vote by 20 percent,” writes Margaret Hoover in the Wall Street Journal. The youth vote, historically pro-Democrat, populated Reagan rallies with cries of "Four more years!” according to PBS’ “Reagan” history series.

In 2008, President Obama won a full 68 percent of the youth vote, the biggest in American presidential history. And this was no small thing. It can easily be argued that youth vote guaranteed him the presidency.

So what does the current state of the U.S. economy, a loss of youth support for President Obama's re-election campaign and the Youth Misery Index mean? It could mean that the youth voting bloc is up for grabs and the entire 2012 election is contingent on whoever wins their support.

Should the DNC or GOP decide to woo the youth vote, they would do well to address the issues raised in the Youth Misery Index.

“Young America’s Foundation is the only group talking about these things and saying, ‘Okay, young people, you’re in the worst economic situation you’ve ever had, that we’ve had in the last 100 years, and here’s why: it’s big government, it’s the Obama administration, it’s these policies.’ No one else is doing that and that’s sad,” Meyer said.

Click to enlarge.

The Obama re-election campaign has already begun work on reestablishing its support base with the youth vote. By advertising initiatives such as the "Summer Jobs+" program, and by using information gathered through National Campus Leadership Council, the White House may be able to accomplish this.

What would the GOP need to do to win the youth vote?

“If conservatives propose a pro-freedom agenda that give’s the people the power—and if they stay principled—then we will pick up youth support. That’s what Reagan did: he had a principled stance on a lot of issues and young people turned out for him in huge numbers. And, his principled policies worked. During the Reagan years, youth unemployment drastically declined as his policies reinvigorated America’s economy. If the recipe works, stick with it,” Meyer said.

One last thing…
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