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Young Voters Disappointed By Obama, Turned Off By Romney

Tasbeeh Herwees |
September 21, 2012 | 9:51 p.m. PDT

Senior Staff Reporter

(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)

As elections near, campaigns will begin buckling down and ramping up efforts to capture the ever-elusive "youth vote". For years, Barack Obama's campaign was lauded for doing what was once considered a tremendous task -- luring out 51 percent of registered young voters to turn out and lend their votes to the democratic candidate. 

Those were the good old days for Obama, who may find it harder to inspire the same enthusiasm as he once did. With the unemployment rate at 8.1 percent, young voters --- especially the ones leaving college with massive debts this year and entreating a beleaguered job market -- are feeling disillusioned with promises of change and yes-we-cans. 

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found in recent poll that 40 percent of young voters (aged 18-29 years old) used the word "disappointed" when describing how they felt about the Obama administration. Enthusiasm has waned -- but that doesn't necessarily mean they won't turn out for their president. 

"In general, young voters are much more likely to support the president than Mitt Romney," says Felicia Sullivan, a senior researcher at at the center. "However, Mitt Romney has much more support amongst young people than John Mccain had 4 years ago."

This could be attributed Romney's campaign strategy, which has focused much more on garnering the support of young voters than Mccain's did. 

"He might be passing more into populations that weren't tapped into last time," says Sullivan. "Research has shown that when young people are targeted as a constituency, their turnout is higher."

However, after a recent string of setbacks -- including the now-infamous "47 Percent" speech -- Romney's campaign may be losing whatever momentum it once had among young voters. 

Nicole Matthews, a 19-year-old USC student, says although she's disappointed with Obama's work in the job sector, she's still voting for the President when she hits the polls this November. 

"I feel like he's more in touch with the middle class and lower class than Romney is, especially after Romney's 47 percent comment," said Matthews, "He could definitely improve on the job market and the economy."

For voters between the ages of 18-29, the job sector and economy are at the top of their agenda -- just like the rest of the nation. And Romney's image of an ivory-tower politician with billions in the bank are not helping. 

"The issues that young people are most concerned about are surprisingly not unlike the general population," says Sullivan, "Over 30 percent of young people in our poll identified jobs and the economy as the number one thing they're most concerned about."

Troy Armstrong, 21, is voting for Obama because of the president's stance on social issues like gay marriage and women's rights. Armstrong believes Obama did the best job he could with what he was given (a Republican-controlled House of Representatives), but he's worried about the economy. 

"The job outlook is a little unsettling right now, especially as a college student going into job forest. It's a little scary," says Armstrong.

Sullivan says that young voters like Armstrong are also concerned about tuition. 

"Amongst liberal or more progressive voters, the topic or issue is school debt and the costs of higher education," she says, "For more conservative youth, it tends to be the debt, the fiscal debt crisis. And for all youth the third issue is cost of healthcare."

Lauren Rodriguez, 19, says she's exasperated with the Romney campaign's spin on Obamacare. 

"Everyone says Obamacare is so horrible but he's [romney]  taking pieces of Obamacare to put into his own health plan… so it's a giant contradiction," says Rodriguez, who will be voting for Obama in November. 

It may just be that young people feel strongly enough about these issues to come out in numbers that rival 2008's -- but it's impossible to tell, says Sullivan. 

"According to the poll, about 70 percent of [eligible voters] them were registered to vote, so registration to vote is a good indicator that people, at least, have made that first step," says Sullivan, "Historically, 18-29 years olds have turned out anywhere between 39 percent and 55 percent in Federal elections. Even 2008 was not the highest turnout rate amongst young people -- there have been higher rates."


Reach Senior Staff Reporter Tasbeeh Herwees here.



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