In the 2008 election there was a massive and sweeping involvement of young voters. At college campuses across the nation rallies and get-out-the-vote campaigns dominated the landscape. An estimated 22 – 23 million voters aged 18 – 29 made themselves heard on election day. Overwhelmingly that vote was for then-Senator Obama. Four years later, the question facing young voters is not embracing “Change” but are they better off. Once again the response is hard to not notice.
In 2008, the correlation of education and voting increased dramatically as the level of education increased. Youth voters with less than high school education (18 – 24) only had a 27% participation rate, compared to those with some college who were at 56.6%. According to Gallup polls in October of 2008, some 78% of those 18 – 24 stated they were likely to vote, only 7% less than the national average of all registered voters and a mere 3% less than in 2004.
Today, college campuses are virtually silent. Gallup shows that there is a 20% difference in the likelihood of a youth voter (18 – 24) definitely planning to vote compared to the national average of registered voters – 58% youth vs 78% national. The difference also matches the number of youth voters compared to 2008.
The impact could be devastating. Assuming every member of the 18 – 24 range that indicated they were a likely voter does in fact vote, it could mean a loss of roughly 4 million votes. Considering that the ratio of votes Democrat to Republican was 2 to 1, that could be as many as 2.6 million less votes for re-electign President Obama. The odds are that such a turnout of youth voters is potentially a view from rose colored glasses, even among the college educated.
What has caused such a dramatic lack of interest?
The economy for one thing. The unemployment rate stands higher today than at any point in 2008. As of August 2012, eighty-nine percent of 18-29 year olds believe the current state of the economy is impacting their day-to-day lives based on a survey by Generation Opportunity. This same organization notes that the unemployemtn rate for 18 – 29 stands at 12.7% for August. Considering that only 11% of those 18 – 24, with a Bachelor’s degree, hold a position for 2 years (according to a government 1998 – 2009 study) and the data from Generation Opportunity, the higher the unemployment the more daunting the future.
Add to this the hype over student loans. One of the few things that Democrats and Republicans agreed on was that the increase of interest rates for student loans scheduled for September 2012 had to be stopped. The increase would have only raised the rates back to the 2007 levels, but that increase would have meant rates rising from the current 3.4% to 6.8%. Even with this agreement on what to do, both political parties delayed a deal and used the issue as a sword over the head of the other party. On June 29th, with no time to spare, the agreement was made.
Many students happened to notice the fact that they were used as pawns in a game of political oneupmanship. Mere pieces in a ploy to gain votes in the presidential election. Many were not amused.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, is the fact that the “Change” so widely and emphatically promised just didn’t happen. Immigration reform, “green” energy, closing Gitmo, and a host of other issues championed by youth voters never got further than promises on the campaign trail. Even with a supermajority. Even with a leader that ‘got it’. Which does not include a new war with Libya, or the negative ramifications of supporting questionable regimes in the Middle East.
The disparity is so stark that in the Generation Opportunity poll only “38% believe that today’s political leaders reflect the interests of young Americans”. President Obama is among those leaders.
Thus, to answer the question presented at the beginning, are young Americans better off today than 4 years ago, the apparent response from the youth vote is no.
M V Consulting, Inc does NOT advocate any candidate or incumbent in any local, State, or national election. We seek to provide the broadest coverage and information on each candidate and incumbent so that voters may make an informed decision on how they want to vote – whatever that vote may be.