Ever since I was a young(er) man, I’ve heard about the coming wave of young voters who were ready to “rock the vote” and change the world. Sadly, while this was predicted every four years, it rarely happened. The youth vote tended to raise their voices loudly for the media but failed to deliver on election day. That changed to a certain extent in 2008, though, when they turned out in fairly impressive numbers for Barack Obama. So are they gearing up for a similar showing in the coming year? At least according to one analysis, not so much.

In 2008, the youth vote helped sweep Barack Obama into office. Americans 18-29 spread the word on social media, energized fundraising and went to the polls.

In 2012, the youth vote is moving on and throwing those omnipresent “Hope” bumper stickers and t-shirts in garbage bins.

Not because of apathy. Not because another candidate generates more enthusiasm. Not because of his character. Not because they think voting is pointless. The 18-29 vote is up for grabs in 2012 because youth can’t afford cars to put bumper stickers on and those t-shirts are worn out from too many days sitting on the couch unemployed.

The sobering reality: just 55.3 percent of Americans between 16 and 29 have jobs. And earlier this year, Americans’ student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever.

The Occupy movement may have been one of the leading indicators for this, and perhaps the Democrats shouldn’t have been so quick to embrace the squatters. You only have time to go camp out and annoy people in the park for months on end if you’re unemployed. (Or, alternately, employed by a labor union to camp there.) And no matter how much they may rail against Wall Street bankers and the wealthy, when it comes time to vote, unemployed people tend to blame the party in power.

Does this mean that large numbers of them will suddenly flock to the GOP and support the eventual Republican candidate? That might be a stretch. But what is far more believable is that they’ll go back to staying home on election days.

One group of young voters is very charged up again, of course, but they’re working for Ron Paul. And these are voters who don’t tend to have a second choice. If Paul isn’t running next November, they’re unlikely to show up for anyone else, and they’re certainly not going to embrace Obama. Could 2012 be the return of voter apathy in the 18-29 year old demographic?

UPDATE: Courtesy of itsnotaboutme in the comments section, a friendly, video tutorial for young voters needing to remove those pesky hope and change bumper stickers from their cars. (If they can still afford cars.)