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Why The Youth Vote Isn't As Guaranteed As We Think

Nandini Ruparel |
September 18, 2012 | 3:06 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


Dawn Megli/Neon Tommy
Dawn Megli/Neon Tommy
Many Americans tend to group the youth vote as one that is overwhelmingly liberal--and, considering data from the previous election, it's clear why they think so. According to exit polls, 66 percent of young Americans voted for candidate Barack Obama, and 78 percent of young voters (ages 18 to 29) had said they would "definitely" likely vote for him in that election.

However, disillusioned with rising unemployment numbers, falling job opportunities, and an economy that is barely getting back on its feet, the younger generation isn't willing to give the president the same enthusiasm from four years ago.

Only 58 percent of registered young voters said that they were definitely likely to vote in this election, which is a drop of 20 percent in just four years. And while Obama still enjoys a majority of support from these voters of 55 percent, it's still less than what he garnered in his first run at the presidency--and Mitt Romney is currently holding 42 percent of their votes. 

As such, both candidates must actively court the youth vote--and start immediately. Kal Penn, who has used his influence and popularity with a younger generation already at the Democratic National Convention, actively rejects "the notion that there's an enthusiasm gap." And yet he's been traveling cross-country to campaign for Obama in various colleges--clearly a tactic aimed at getting votes from that age group--or at least encouraging them to vote in the first place. 

Even Republicans are expanding their rhetoric on the economy to target job growth and opportunities for the young.

"College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms...and wondering when they can move out and get going with life," said Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, appealing directly to a generation who must suffer directly the consequences of an economic disaster they were not a part of making.  And although it may not be useful to candidate Romney yet, currently 42 percent of 18 to 19 year old voters identify as conservative, according to John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. 

For the youth vote in 2012, half the battle is garnering their vote--and half of it is ensuring that they cast it. 


Reach Staff Reporter Nandini Ruparel here



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