Surprise: Obama’s losing young voters
posted at 10:26 am on April 27, 2010 by Cassy Fiano
Democrats are getting desperate. Thanks to mountains of unpopular legislation, they’re careening full speed ahead towards huge losses in November. They’re looking towards their charismatic Dear Leader to help save them, and so Obama is trying to recapture the magic from his campaign. So, Obama sent out a call for pretty much everyone except older white people to help out his buddies when election season rolls around.
Unfortunately, he’s already lost one of those groups: the young voters. Cue the hysterical “Get Out The Vote” campaigns!
Less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama announced his plan to re-build the coalition that helped elect him in 2008, new numbers from Gallup suggest one of the pillars of that foundation is decidedly shaky.
Less than one in four voters aged 18-29 described themselves as “very enthusiastic” about the 2010 midterm election. Those numbers compare unfavorably to voters between 50 and 64 (44 percent “very enthusiastic”), 65 and older (41 percent “very enthusiastic”) and 30 to 49 (32 percent “very enthusiastic”).
“The fact that voters under age 50 — and particularly those under 30 — are less enthusiastic about voting this year is not a new phenomenon,” wrote Gallup’s Frank Newport. “Voter turnout typically skews older.”
While the data is in keeping with traditional voting patterns, it makes obvious the difficulty facing the White House as they seek to reconstruct the combination of young voters, independents and African Americans who helped propel Obama into the White House.
Looking back at exit polls from the last three presidential races, it’s clear that the story is not how young people comprised larger and larger segments of the electorate but rather how much more Democratic they voted between 2000 and 2008.
In each of those three elections, the number of young voters as a percentage of the overall electorate was remarkably similar: 18 percent in 2008, 17 percent in 2004 and 17 percent in 2000.
What changed was how they voted. In 2000, young voters split their votes with 48 percent choosing Al Gore and 46 percent opting for George W. Bush. Four years later John Kerry carried 18-29 year olds by a nine-point margin; Obama won them by a whopping 66 percent to 32 percent.
The Gallup data affirms the clear Democratic tilt of young voters. On a generic congressional ballot test, 51 percent of 18-29 year old vote opted for the Democratic candidate while 39 percent chose the Republican. In every other age group, the generic was either statistically tied or the GOP candidate led. (Republicans’ best age group was voters 65 and older who chose a GOP candidate by a 50 percent to 41 percent margin over a generic Democrat.)
What a shocker. Young voters are unreliable.
Let me tell you what I have discovered, as a young voter myself. You generally have a few reliable groups of young voters. You have people like me, who are involved in politics, follow it religiously, and are informed on the issues. You have the people who pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to politics, until MTV rolls up to their college campus with the Rock the Vote! bus and some Real World castmate telling them they need to go vote. And then you have the people who get behind one candidate. This past election season, it was Obama. They feel the fire for that person, so to speak, believe everything they say, and work their asses off to help get that one person elected. For them, it’s not about the issues, it’s about the candidate. Once they get their candidate elected, they feel like they’ve accomplished something and go back to not caring about politics at all immediately afterwards.
Those are your young voters. The second two groups generally only get involved during presidential elections. They have no understanding of how government works, so they don’t realize the importance of congressional elections. And Democrats, frankly, are geniuses at harnessing these latter two groups of young voters during major elections. These are the young people who will celebrate any hip cause that comes across their campus. They’re the naive, idealistic ones who don’t know and don’t care about how dirty a business politics is. They’re superficial, and no one can capitalize on that better than Democrats can. Vote for Obama, because he stands for hope and change! He wants to change Washington! And inside those little young voter heads, they’re all thinking, “Yeah, dude, that sounds good. Because man, we need to change Washington!”
It usually doesn’t go much deeper than that. Not, anyways, until they get older and smarter and more involved. The young voters who understand government, stay informed, and are passionate about issues (not candidates) are indeed out there. There are many of us. But we are dwarfed by the number of idiot young voters who will vote for whoever so-and-so from the Real World tells them to vote for. (For all the uber-offended young people reading this — yeah, yeah, this is my generation I’m dissing, but it’s the truth, and sometimes the truth is painful to hear.)
Once you understand young voters, you can understand why it’s idiotic to rely on them. They don’t usually get involved in non-presidential election years. It’s because they don’t care. There are no flashy campaign ads, huge tours going around the country, and glamorous celebrities to attract their attention. Getting involved during a congressional election usually means that you have to be somewhat well-informed about politics and government, and young voters just usually aren’t. Young voters are primarily casual voters, and why would casual voters care about whether or not some old white dude beats another old white dude? That’s what politics is for them: a bunch of old people whose names they only vaguely remember.
To win in November, Democrats need to realize that their electorate is not going to be the same as it was in 2008. They’ve lost independents because of their radical liberal agenda already. The young voters just don’t give a damn this time around. And a lot of the “minority” voters — women, African-Americans, Hispanics — are not going to turn out in bigger numbers than the older, more conservative voters. It’s the passion index. The Obama electorate has fractured and they don’t have the passion they had in 2008. Why should they? Consider how many of them are uninformed, casual voters who don’t follow politics often. As far as they’re concerned, they don’t have anything to worry about until 2012. And by then, Obama may have alienated many of them, anyways.
Recently in the Green Room: