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Will a lousy economy cost Obama the youth vote?
A sobering New York Times report warns of President Obama's enthusiasm problem among out-of-work young voters
 
President Obama greets supporters as he arrives to speak at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on June 7: Obama leads GOP challenger Mitt Romney by 12 percentage points among 18- to 24-year-olds, but that demographic faces high rates of unemployment, which could threaten to weaken an important base for Obama.
President Obama greets supporters as he arrives to speak at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on June 7: Obama leads GOP challenger Mitt Romney by 12 percentage points among 18- to 24-year-olds, but that demographic faces high rates of unemployment, which could threaten to weaken an important base for Obama.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The youth vote was an essential component of President Obama's 2008 victory, and for the most part the college-age voters who supported him then still back him now, if with diminished enthusiasm, says Susan Saulny in The New York Times. Yet in the past four years, "a new corps of men and women have come of voting age with views shaped largely by the recession," and they're less enamored of the president and government in general. Today's 18- to 24-year-olds support Obama over Republican rival Mitt Romney by just 12 percentage points — half his lead among voters aged 25 to 29 — and among white college-age voters Obama and Romney are essentially tied, according to a recent online survey by the Harvard Institute of Politics. Probably not coincidentally, the unemployment rate for 18- and 19-year-olds is 23.5 percent, and 12.9 percent for those 20 to 24. Team Romney has taken note, and just rolled out a youth outreach campaign. Could the slow pace of recovery erase Obama's advantage among young voters?

Youth malaise could sink Obama: The president is clearly worried about the youth vote — that's why he kicked off his campaign at two colleges, says Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Chicago Sun-Times. Well, good. "Young voters are still largely Obama territory" — Romney's social and economic policies hold little appeal — but they'll stay home and cost Obama his re-election unless he starts to fight for them, and for jobs. Neither his record nor "cool campaign technologies" will be enough to motivate young workers "struggling in the worst economy since the Great Depression." 
"Young America is key to 2012 election"

And that gives the GOP a shot at staging a demographic coup: Young voters aren't justing directing their "political cynicism" at Obama, but at government in general, says Alana Goodman at Commentary. "The Times seems to blame the economy for this rise in libertarian sentiment," but it could also be that growing up with smartphones and other technologies that place "increasing emphasis on the individual" has turned them away from collectively-minded Democrats. Either way, this "gives Republicans an opening to reach out to these younger voters."
"Younger voters turning against Obama"

People are over-reading the polls: If you dig a bit, this is what today's "content-free" pre-election summertime political story tells us, says Amanda Marcotte at Slate: Young people are still "wildly pro-Obama overall," but probably won't turn out for him in the same historic numbers as in 2008's "uniquely exciting election." Is that worrisome for Obama? "For sure." But despite The Times' best efforts to create a "mini-trend" about youth disillusionment with Obama, the "deeply unsexy" reason is that low turnout among young voters is "the normal state of affairs."
"What's missing from the 'Young people don't vote' stories"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

 

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