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Obama down among young voters

Posted: May 1, 2012 at 11:45 am   /   by

We start with Michael Barone’s Obama losing rock-star status among young voters:

Obviously, the Obama campaign strategists are worried that he cannot duplicate his 66 to 32 percent margin among young voters back in 2008.

Recent surveys of young people show inconsistent results. Gallup’s tracking shows Obama leading Mitt Romney 64 to 29 percent, and a Harvard Institute of Politics poll shows him leading Romney 43 to 26 percent among those who said they had an opinion.

But a March survey of 18- to 24 year olds by the Public Religion Research Institute showed Obama ahead of “a Republican” by only 48 to 41 percent. Only 52 percent had favorable opinions of Obama, and 43 percent had unfavorable opinions.

Where the surveys seem to be in accord is that young voters are less engaged, less likely to vote and less enthusiastic about Obama than in the days when he was proclaiming, “We are the change we are seeking.”

Gallup shows only 56 percent of Americans under 30 saying they definitely will vote. Among older Americans, the figure is over 80 percent. The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed only 45 percent of young people taking a big interest in the election, down from 63 percent in 2008.

Hispanics and blacks make up a larger share of the Millennial generation than of older Americans, and Obama’s support among them seems to remain high. But the Harvard survey shows that only 41 percent of white Millennials approve of Obama’s job performance, significantly lower than the 54 percent who voted for him in 2008.

This comports with what we were saying yesterday:

Here’s my own broad-strokes electoral analysis.

1. Barack Obama will see a fall in his percentage support in every cohort (with the possible exception of black voters). Independents, blue-collar whites, affluent voters, women, college-educated people, high-school dropouts, Jews, Hispanics, and on and on. The bloom is off Obama’s rose. There is no hope and change. The economy has been stagnant, and Obama now has a record (or lack thereof) to defend. It is almost certain that he will be supported in smaller percentages from each group than in 2008, when he was fresh and new and promising to turn back the rising oceans. How much of a percentage drop remains to be seen, and it may be very small among some cohorts, but it isn’t going to go up in any of them.

2. Obama will see a fall in the turnout from almost every cohort, with the possible exception of the most hardcore base leftist vote, which is a comparatively small fraction of the population. It is highly unlikely that after three years of ObaMalaise™, Obama’s supporters in each cohort are going to turn out in GREATER numbers than in 2008. Again, the amounts will vary, but the turnout of his supporters is likely to go down, not up.

This race is going to come down to the enthusiasm gap. The percentages will be what they will be, but the side with the greatest enthusiasm is going to take the race, simply by putting more of its voters on the ground than the other side.  Broadly speaking, Republican enthusiasm for getting out to vote has been much higher over the last couple of years than the Democrats’. If that gap is carried into the election, Romney will not only beat Obama, he will do so by a wide margin.

Obviously Obama will do better than Romney among young voters. But he is not going to do as well as last time, either in percentages or in turnout. The amount of drop is as yet unknown, but barring some wild unforeseen event(s), there will be a drop.

Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook

Managing Editor at Western Free Press
Christopher Cook is a writer, editor, and political commentator. He is the president of Castleraine, Inc., a consulting firm providing a diverse array of services to corporate, public policy, and not-for-profit clients.

Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including (now a part of Western Free Press) and He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to
Christopher Cook

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Obama down among young voters