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Another look at Obama and the Youth Vote

by | May 1, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Michael Barone

In “Are the Scales Falling from the Public’s Eyes about Obama?” I mined a column by Peggy Noonan for her insights into the public’s current mood about President Obama. I’d like to further discuss that topic by digging into the latest from Michael Barone, one of the premier political columnists in the country

There’s been a lot of back and forth debating the conclusion in the headline to Barone’s piece: “Obama Losing Rock-star Status Among Young Voters.” Is that really true? I’ve written about the fall-off (especially in enthusiasm), but what sayeth Mr. Barone?

As a good analysis he reminds us that there is conflicting evidence. Some polls show that, among youth, Mr. Obama leading pro-life Mitt Romney by much larger margins than do other polls. Likewise, one poll had Obama receiving only 52% favorable ratings from 18-to 24 year olds, others have higher favorability numbers.

However, Barone writes, “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.’”

But clearly the Obama campaign is worried, which is why Neil Munro of the Daily Caller “has counted 130 appearances by the president, vice president, their spouses, White House officials, and Cabinet secretaries at colleges and universities since spring 2011.”

Barone makes a hugely important point, one we talked about last week but not in as much depth. Contrary to what we (mis-)remember, exit polls did NOT show a tidal wave of young voters in 2008. They made up 17% of the vote in 2004 and 18% of the vote in 2008.

“But close inspection of the election returns showed that the Obama campaign did a splendid job of ginning up turnout in university and college towns and in singles apartment neighborhoods in central cities and close-in suburbs, like Arlington, Va., across the Potomac from Washington,” Barone explains.

The remainder of his insightful analysis explores two key issues: (1) that except among Blacks, Obama did not appear to have much luck mobilizing the economically vulnerable and educationally limited young people– and that “His problem this year is that there are a lot more economically marginal young people, including many who are not educationally limited”; and (2) how the young people who did buy into his slogans four years ago will see “Hope and Change” today.

No wonder “Obama campaign strategists are worried that he cannot duplicate his 66 to 32 percent margin among young voters back in 2008.“

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Categories: Obama