Youth Uninspired to Vote in 2012

One of the keys to President Barack Obama’s successful 2008 campaign was his ability to capture the imagination and galvanize the passion of young voters. However, the president has already recognized that his current political image is not nearly as “cool” as it was three years ago. Even though the president’s poll numbers have dropped among young people, his GOP rivals have had a hard time making inroads into the youth vote; that is, with the exception of one candidate — Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Paul is no doubt the Don Quixote of the race. He has electrified the youth in a way no Republican candidate has managed in quite a while. His relatively small, but ardently committed base is composed mostly of voters under the age of 29. Paul's views on American withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, support for smaller government, and his willingness to challenge political sacred cows like Social Security or the Federal Reserve endear him to a significant number of young voters.

Assuming Paul doesn’t win the nomination, pundits must be pondering the fate of his supporters. And, for that matter, what will be the fate of young voters in general? Without the presence of Paul or the 2008 version of Obama to inspire them to vote in the upcoming race, most young voters will probably just sit this one out.

When Paul lost the nomination in 2008, McCain failed to win any substantial support from young Paulites. Currently, the race for next year’s Republican nomination seems to be narrowing to a battle between Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney. While Perry and Romney have some of the credentials and beliefs that would theoretically endear them to Paul's supporters, neither of whom do especially well with young Tea-Party or small-government conservatives.

Obama has had a similar result in his efforts to attract young voters. For many reasons, young voters don’t believe he has brought about the change he promised. Now, Obama is having a hard time recapturing the magic he so ardently displayed four years ago.

Unfortunately for youth voters, the candidates in the 2012 election will not be nearly as compelling as in 2008. If the prevailing political atmosphere continues to resonate through next year, we can expect neither Obama nor the eventual GOP nominee to do exceptionally well with this elusive demographic. Neither Obama nor the GOP frontrunners have done as great a job reaching out to young people and speaking about issues that are important to them as Obama did in 2008 and as Paul does now. We cannot say that no young people will vote in 2012, but it is getting increasingly clear that the percentage of young voters will significantly decrease. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of young voters just stay home on election day.

Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Tyler Kuhn

My name is Tyler Kuhn and I am a member of the class of 2014 at Dartmouth College. I am double major in government (with a concentration in American politics) and history (with a concentration in the history of warfare). I am a lifelong resident of a small town in Ohio (Hudson). My primary political interest are the deficit, the budget, congressional politics and state / federal elections. For me, the battle over the deficit and the budget are fascinating because I believe they will be the defining issues of this political generation. Additionally, I enjoy reading about the interworkings of Capital Hill and elections because policy battles are won and loss in those arenas. Also, I served as a congressional page on the floor of the House of Representatives in the 110th Congress.

MORE FROM

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: Charlie Gard, human trafficking, Kushner denies collusion with Russia

What you need to know for Tuesday, July 25.

The last baby orca to be born at SeaWorld dies after serious health issues

Kyara was the last baby orca to be born into SeaWorld's controversial breeding program.

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: Charlie Gard, human trafficking, Kushner denies collusion with Russia

What you need to know for Tuesday, July 25.

The last baby orca to be born at SeaWorld dies after serious health issues

Kyara was the last baby orca to be born into SeaWorld's controversial breeding program.

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.