Finally, a Friday news story at which to vent my inner eeyore. The Times is right, of course, that Obama fever has cooled a bit among “Generation O.” How could it not have? As Greenroomer Patrick Ishmael explained last year, between the horrific unemployment rate among young adults and the general political education they’re getting right now about federal spending, there’s bound to be a backlash to Hopenchange.
But how much of a backlash is it, really?
As horrible as this year has been for Obama, his rating among young voters is right where it was last December and would almost certainly be considerably higher per the bounce he got after passing ObamaCare if the oil spill hadn’t dominated the headlines this summer. The Times offers a second graph, which, alas, is only current through April, but there too you can see support for Democrats climbing after O-Care’s passage to the point where it’s not terribly far from the all-time high they enjoyed during the campaign. No doubt those numbers have since dipped a bit too but it wouldn’t surprise me to find that the Dems still have a 20-point advantage in this demographic. Which brings me to an eeyore moment: Granting that younger voters will always skew a bit more leftish, how is it worth celebrating that the GOP’s now “only” down 20 points when virtually everything that can favor them favors them? It’s much better than being down 40 points, needless to say, but if even a perfect storm can’t narrow that gap past 20, then maybe this is a lost demographic. Which is very bad news, because once young voters have gotten into the habit of voting for one party, they tend to stay that way for life. More on that from the Times piece:
For decades in politics, Republican and Democratic strategists have put their faith in the so-called rule of three, which says that patterns in youth, once established by votes in three consecutive elections, become habit and identity.
Self-identification figures for Democrats — in national polls asking young people what party they lean more toward — peaked at 62 percent in July 2008, according to the Pew Research Center. By late last year, the number had dropped eight percentage points, to 54 percent, though researchers saw an uptick earlier this year, back to 57 percent. Republican gains roughly mirrored Democratic losses.
Some academics who study voting patterns say that the rule of three is too simplistic, and that lots of factors combine to determine a person’s place on the political spectrum. Individual votes, said Donald P. Green, a professor of political science at Yale who studies voter behavior, matter less than the social fabric that people grow into — in jobs, social life, community and values.
I vaguely remember a Times article from a few years ago illustrating how constant young voters’ partisan leanings are over time depending upon who’s president when they come of age, but damned if I can find it now. In any case, here’s the big question. If the “rule of three” is true, then a big red wave in November is just what we need to bust some young voters out of a lifelong habit of voting Democrat. But if the rule of three isn’t true — if it’s more like a rule of two — then some of them are already so firmly Democratic that almost nothing can convince them otherwise at this point. Looking at The One’s approval rating above, I wonder if that isn’t the case.