Green Room

Surprise: Obama’s losing young voters

posted at 10:26 am on April 27, 2010 by

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.

Cross-posted from Cassy’s blog. Stop by for more original commentary, or follow her on Twitter!

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Comments

The real Gallup story, declining Democrat enthusiasms across the board, prompts another taxpayer funded camapign trip for Obama-commie.

Sigh, not another yelling and screaming teleprompter seance.

Why bother, it’s all lies, tell the coal people how he loves them, while at the same time issuing regulation forcing more coal job loss.

Obama is clearly the president for ignorant people.

tarpon on April 27, 2010 at 10:39 AM

It’s not just that young voters are fickle. I know some flaming liberals who are turning against Obama now. I never would have expected them to do that.

Daggett on April 27, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Young voters were excited about the idea of Obama far more than they ever were about Obama’s ideas. Like a lot of other voters they wanted to do something historic, which made it easier to buy into the idea of Barack being all things to all people, and ignoring his past record and/or his past associations.

What will be interesting to see is what happens to those same young voters when 2012 rolls around. While the Democrats might be able to gin up some segments of the minority vote using a “Protect the King” strategy, you can’t make the same history a second time around. So odds are the idea of re-electing an African-American president is going to carry far less of a ‘feel-good’ quotent among young voters two years from now than they had over the idea of putting Obama in the White House the first time around.

jon1979 on April 27, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Daggett – what issues are the flaming liberals citing in turning against O? I am curious.

Thanks for this good essay Cassy. I remember only too vividly my low information casual youth vote days, which were about 20 years ago, and yes the whole Rock the Vote, Real World thing was being done back then too. Actually not much has changed. The only thing I got right back then was voting against Specter, though he won regardless of course.

Agree jon1979, you can’t make history all over again. Lots of people came out with no deeper idea or knowledge in ’08 than helping to ‘make history.’ And of course what I call the ‘vanity voters’ who were legion.

perries on April 27, 2010 at 11:44 AM

Maybe they figure they got him elected, and now the rest is up to him, and as others point out, there’s nothing “historical” or hip this time around to encourage getting out of bed and heading to the polls. As for congressional races, I’d be surprised to see the youth getting all “wee-wee’d up” to secure the re-election of someone like Harry Reid.

tpitman on April 27, 2010 at 4:29 PM