Obama, now more than ever, can’t sit comfortably. Mitt Romney now holds 40% of the youth vote in America — a cause for alarm for the Democratic incumbent, and a milestone for his Republican opponent. What accounts for this sudden shift, and how can Obama recapture his former popularity?
John Zogby of JZ Analytics reports that more citizens between the ages of 18-29 are favoring the conservative podium. He proclaims that these “CENGAS” (“college-educated, not going anywhere” folks) are noteworthy voters in the 2012 Election. The frustration of 1.5 million unemployed B.A. graduates is rising, pushing them away from Obama and towards Romney.
Four years ago, the situation was reversed. Obama’s 2008 campaign will be remembered not just because of his skin color, but also because of his massive appeal to young adults. The Hope posters, the “Change We Can Believe In” slogan, the endorsements by Hollywood icons like will.i.am — all contributed to Obama’s tenacity. More than half of Americans under 29 (66%) picked Obama over John McCain. But it’s been four years. Obama's historic campaign is becoming just that: history.
Obama’s biggest problem is our generation's disillusionment. When Shepard Fairey designed the Obama posters, he, like thousands of young adults, thought that change would come. Come quickly, that is. The previous eight years under George W. Bush’s botched financial oversight, however, squandered any possibility of rapid economic improvement. “This was not your normal recession,” Obama declared in June. “Throughout history, it has typically taken countries up to 10 years to recover from financial crises of this magnitude.” After the release of his documentary The Road We’ve Traveled, he added: “We are not going to get where we need to be if we go back to the policies that helped to create this mess.”
But even if what Obama says is true, young adults are aggravated. If teenagers are impatient, then unemployed college graduates are even more so. They see Obama as playing the blame game — at least when in terms of the economic quandary. Sure, his administration ended Osama Bin Laden, spoke up for gay rights, and won him favor abroad, but who cares? The average American college graduate still expects a job.
Indeed, Robyn Meredith, author of The Elephant and the Dragon, argues that our standards are unrealistically high. “Westerners [find] they can no longer expect to be paid ten times more than those in the developing world for the same work,” she writes. “College graduates in India are happy to land a job answering 800-number customer service calls to listen to Americans complain.”
Still, if post-college unemployment is turning young voters towards Romney, how can Obama win them back?
For now, it's time for him to stop blaming Bush's policies. That excuse is almost 48 months old. He should be truthful:focus on the Obama plan, publicize it and stick to it. Come debate time, he should emphasize things outside of the economy; it's Obama’s track on social issues that will paint him as the hero. The public’s opinion of Romney’s foreign policy is limited to his Olympics gaffe with David Cameron. It’s been said that Romneycare isn’t that radically different from Obamacare, and with the first female debate moderator in 20 years, Romney’s record on feminist issues is also up for grabs. The debates are Obama’s chance to win back the youth vote.
But for those two months before official debates begin, Obama is being a lame duck. Whilst he scrambles to better endorse the Democratic platform, more and more young people are looking to Romney and wondering, "Who is John Galt?"