From Generation Hopenchange to Generation Disenchanted?

One of the key Hopenchange-influenced demographics that boosted Barack Obama’s path to victory in 2008 was, of course, the starry-eyed youth vote, and part of Team Obama’s strategy still relies upon urging the youth vote to vote again/vote early/get their undecided friends to vote, especially in swing states, is still very much a part of their projected path to victory. As Byron York points out:

…[T]op Obama campaign aide Jim Messina discussed strategy on a conference call with reporters, and it was clear that Obama’s path to victory in Ohio relies completely, totally, and absolutely on early voting among constituencies friendly to the president.  At times, Messina seemed less a strategist than a walking, talking encyclopedia of every, black, Latino, female, and young voter who has already or might soon cast an early ballot in Ohio.

“We’re winning the early vote in the battleground states that will decide this election,” Messina said.  “The Romney campaign has bet that young people and minorities won’t turn out. The early vote numbers are already proving the folly of that gamble, and the wisdom of our plan.”

Er, I highly doubt that Team Romney’s plan rests more upon convincing young people not to turn out than on getting them to sit up and realize that they’re the ones who will have to live with the outcome of this election the longest. Under President Obama, the youth unemployment rate has hovered around 17 percent and that their share of public debt has skyrocketed while unsustainable entitlement programs go unreformed — a message that, it seems, is sinking in to at least some degree. The NJ reports that the erstwhile enchanted-with-Obama youths are feeling increasingly disenchanted with the results of his policies and and politics of late:

The trends appear to be worsening for millennials. Data from Gallup and the Public Religion Research Institute indicate that fewer young people plan to vote in the upcoming election. Gallup found that just 58 percent of young voters say they will “definitely vote” this fall, down from 81 percent in October 2004 and 78 percent in October 2008.

Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center survey shows that young voters are generally less engaged in politics than they were in 2008. The proportion of young voters expressing increased interest in politics this year has plummeted: At this time in 2008, 69 percent of voters under 30 said they were more interested in politics than four years prior, while today, just 52 percent of that age group expressed an increased interest.

“The millennial generation is characterized by a pessimism about the future and a mistrust of government institutions,” says Trey Grayson, director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Since so many young voters have grown up in a society riddled with political dysfunction, he adds, such apathy should come as no surprise. “For young voters, there is a third candidate in this race,” Grayson says, “and it’s ‘stay home.’ ”

That declining enthusiasm poses huge concerns for President Obama, who turned out young voters in abnormally high numbers in 2008, then won overwhelmingly among them.

There may be other factors at play here (I’ve often wondered if the ease of information-sharing, with Twitter and smartphones and whatnot, has actually made us more inclined to an attention-deficit-aided shying away from critical thinking, or maybe just our constant exposure to it is making us all more jaded), but the extended partisan gridlock and poor economic news are not to be ignored, and I don’t think throwing them a few meager bones about helping out with student debt (which will, in the long run, actually keep making tuition and loans more expensive) will be enough to re-infatuate them with President Obama in the same numbers of 2008.