The New York Times published a report over the weekend indicating that America's youth are beginning to leave the "Obama brigade" either in favor of Mitt Romney, or a sense of helplessness.
During the 2008 election, young voters preferred Barack Obama to John McCain by a margin of roughly 68% to 30%, and now the New York Times is reporting:
In the four years since President Obama swept into office... a new corps of men and women have come of voting age with views shaped largely by the recession. And unlike their counterparts in the millennial generation who showed high levels of enthusiasm for Mr. Obama at this point in 2008, the nation’s first-time voters are less enthusiastic about him, are significantly more likely to identify as conservative and cite a growing lack of faith in government in general, according to interviews, experts and recent polls.
Among all 18- to 29-year-olds, the poll found a high level of undecided voters; 30 percent indicated that they had not yet made up their mind. And turnout among this group is expected to be significantly lower than for older voters.
“We’re also seeing that these younger members of this generation are beginning to show some more conservative traits. It doesn’t mean they are Republican. It means Republicans have an opportunity [John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics, said]." [Emphasis added]
And who can blame them? Growing up in an age when their older neighbors and siblings likely graduated and got jobs, the unemployment rate for 18 and 19-year-olds was 23.5 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and for those between the ages of 20 to 24 it's about 12.9 percent.
Instead of landing exciting jobs, America's youth are now either moving back in with their parents, or likely know someone who is. And while they may appreciate being able to stay on their parent's health insurance until they are 26, many prickle at the fact that they are not able to support themselves and buy their own, thanks to such a weak economy.
The Romney campaign says it has already crafted a plan to reach the young voters, and they're tackling it with enthusiasm.
“Dorm room to dorm room” or “parent’s basement to parent’s basement, wherever they are because of the economy, that’s where we’ll be going,” Joshua Baca, the campaign’s national coalition director, said. Bottom line, they want to emphasize the fact that the president's economic policies are not working.
The Youth Misery Index claims: “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...Thanks to big government and the Obama administration, young people are miserable.”
And the New York Times interviewed many who had reached a similar conclusion:
Mr. Tevlin, [an] Indiana student, said his exhaustive search for meaningful summer employment was so futile that he took a job cleaning toilets and septic tanks. “I think we’re in pretty deep trouble, and the future, as far as jobs, is not looking good at all,” he said.
Today, specifically, the youngest potential voters are more likely than their older peers to think it is important to protect individual liberties from government, the Harvard data suggest, and less likely to think it is important to tackle things like climate change, health care or immigration.
Mr. Tevlin, for instance, found the Supreme Court ruling upholding Mr. Obama’s health care law troubling.
“I don’t think the government should force you to buy anything,” he said.
Among those interviewed and polled, young voters reportedly care about the economy more than anything else-- quite a change from last election, when "global warming" or waterboarding were far trendier causes.
“This time, it’s more about what you’re going to do for the economy,” Brandon Dennis, who comes from a black family of Obama supporters, said.
He told the Times he registered as an independent, and is listening to Romney’s ideas.
Peter Levine of Tufts University says that, at the very least, the lack of excitement this election poses "a challenge" for the president's re-election campaign.
At most, it could throw the election altogether. Because when the country's youth hurts, it's not just their voting bloc that notes it-- it's their parents, grandparents, neighbors and mentors.