In 2008, young voters flocked to the polls to vote for Barack Obama in their third-best turnout since 1972, the first year that 18-year-olds could vote. In 2012, four years wiser, many of them won’t be back, according to a new survey from Harvard Institute of Politics. Enthusiasm has fallen by double digits in the past four years, and many of them are now disillusioned about politics:
The Harvard Institute of Politics’ national survey of 18- to 29-year-olds, released on Wednesday, found that while likely young voters favor Obama by a 19-point margin—55 percent to Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 36 percent—only 48 percent say that they definitely plan to vote next month.
On every issue, from the economy to immigration to health care to foreign affairs, young voters said they trust the president more than Romney. Nonetheless, the Romney supporters appear to be more enthusiastic, with 66 percent who support the former Massachusetts governor saying they will definitely vote, compared to 55 percent of Obama backers.
They’re not turning conseervative, though. They’re just turning into cynics:
The poll results point to disappointment, not necessarily in Obama, but in the political system as a whole. Sixty-two percent said that Obama inherited circumstances too big and too complex to be remedied in one term, while only 33 percent said that the president has failed.
Meanwhile, almost four in 10 millennials said that it doesn’t matter who is elected because Washington is broken. A quarter of them said that neither candidate represents their views, and almost three-quarters admitted to not being politically active.
The kicker? This survey took place between September 19th and October 3rd, with 2,123 adults between 18-29 years of age. That ended the day before Barack Obama’s debate flop on October 4th. It’s doubtful that they saw anything in that debate that would have shaken them from their previous lack of engagement; it’s more likely that more of them have checked out of the process since.
It’s not as though the Obama campaign is giving them any reason to be sticking around, anyway. What has been the big messaging coming from Team Obama since the end of that survey on October 3rd? Big Bird, binders, and dirty dishes. I pointed this out last night on Twitter to Ace:
@aceofspadeshq Big Bird, binders, and dirty dishes. This isn’t a presidential campaign; it’s a student council election in elementary school
— EdMorrissey (@EdMorrissey) October 18, 2012
One man once told the nation that when a politician no longer had any good ideas left, he’d make elections about fear and irrelevancies. Who was that again?
Who knew Obama was outlining his 2012 campaign strategy? Small wonder that the people Obama encouraged with this talk in 2008 have become entirely disillusioned four years later.
Update: Bill Whittle explained this phenomenon last week in his latest firewall, “Bewitched!”
The thrill is gone … and so is the glamour.