Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why the Youth Vote Will Make or Break Obama

One of my long time frustrations during the now two decades that I've been actively involved in politics is the hit or miss nature of securing the youth vote. Even though young voters face the biggest long term consequences of failed political/government policies, the youth vote often cannot be relied upon to get to the polls. Fortunately, my children do not suffer from the apathy that plagues many of their compatriots, but overall the inconsistency of the youth vote is disappointing. One can only hope that 2012 will not be a repeat of 2010 when many youth voters stayed home and the consequence was the current GOP lunatics who were elected to the U, S. House of Representatives. I sincerely hope that Lady Gaga or someone can wake them up to the absolute importance of going to the polls and voting in 2012. A piece in The New Republic looks at why the youth vote could make or break Obama's reelection chances. Here are some highlights:

Americans are polarized like never before as we head into the 2012 presidential campaign, and the greatest dividing line of all seems to be age. Indeed, President Obama has astoundingly consistent support from Americans less than 30 years old, the so-called Millennial generation. In a recent Pew survey, this cohort favored Obama over Romney by 24 points, 61-37. The generation least likely to support Obama, on the other hand, is the "Silent generation"—the generational group slighter older than Baby Boomers, and the group now dominant among the ranks of seniors. He trails Mitt Romney in this generation by 13 points, 41-54. This is the same generation that moved so sharply against Democrats in the 2010 election, contributing heavily to the GOP wave that swept the country.

Those polling numbers clearly dictate an electoral strategy: What Obama needs to do is perform a kind of generational pincer movement on the GOP, driving up support and turnout among the Millennial generation while breaking into GOP support among the Silent generation. There’s also a straightforward way for him to accomplish both goals.

Millennials are exceptionally sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its goals. Obama’s attack on inequality and the way that an unfair economy thwarts economic mobility strikes a very responsive chord among these voters.

In addition, Obama’s argument that government must play a strong role in reestablishing healthy economic growth also plays well among this group. In the same Pew poll, Millennials are most likely to select jobs as their top election issue. And, in distinction to older generations, they still believe government spending helps the economy recover—indeed, they believe spending should be a higher priority for the federal government than deficit reduction.. . . Finally, a whopping two-thirds of this generation believes the Affordable Care Act should either be expanded or left as is, rather than repealed.

[T]he other side of Obama’s pincer movement[:] He needs to draw a very strong contrast between his approach and that of the GOP, which proposes to replace the current Medicare system with underfunded vouchers. Silents, more than any other generation, believe it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are (64 percent) than reduce the budget deficit (27 percent).

Nationally, he [Obama] could break-even or a bit worse among middling age groups (30-64) but still win if he carries 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly more than he loses seniors, as he did in 2008, . . . But if he carries 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly less than he loses seniors, as congressional Democrats did in 2010, he will lose.

in contrast to 2008 where the youth vote put Obama over the top in only two states, North Carolina and Indiana, there could be many instances where the youth vote makes the difference in 2012. Consider Ohio. . . . Virginia and Nevada follow the same pattern. Obama carried 18 to 29-year-olds by 60-39 while losing seniors 46-53 in Virginia. Keep that relative relationship, fight the GOP candidate to a draw among middling age groups, and the state is his.

All over the country, in other words, from the Midwest to the New South to the new swing states of the Southwest, Obama’s generational pincer movement could be key to his electoral prospects. Motivate and inspire youth while giving seniors second and third thoughts about the GOP. It’s a good game plan and Obama’s already made an excellent start at implementing it.

No comments: