Millennials Speak: What Must Barack Obama Do to Win the Youth Vote in 2012?

Millennial voters have a surprising amount of sway in the 2012 election. According to some polls, millennials will make up almost one quarter of the total electorate in 2012. As such, President Obama will rely heavily on the millennial vote in order to be reelected. 

It looks pretty good for him right now, with some sources reporting that millennial voters still prefer President Obama by a 2:1 margin over any of his opponents. So how can the President ensure that those votes come his way? Below are some thoughts from fellow millennials in response to the question: What does President Obama need to do for you to consider voting for him in November? (Of course, this was not a random sample, so forgive any selection bias.) 

Anthony ( 21, Colorado) : “I'd like to see him make a more firm promise to reform immigration to make it easier for people to immigrate legally and to become permanent residents but harder to immigrate illegally. It was an initial campaign promise of his, but instead he's set the record for deportations in a single term. It's a tricky thing to do, its also opposed pretty heavily opposed by labor unions, and not the first thing on people's mind when jobs aren't as abundant as they used to be.”

Tim (21, South Carolina): “In my view, he was the only President (and candidate for that matter) who understood the dynamics of social networks enough to successfully draw the youth into his campaign and look cool in their eyes. His catchy slogan last time around and various campaign posters really caught the eyes and ears of the young people, and made them real enthusiastic about him and his campaign. Plus, the fact that he likes to come off as close to the regular American (his talk show appearances, sports, I also remember him going into DC to have a burger a couple of times, stuff like that) really boosts his momentum.

As far as policy is concerned, if he can make higher education more affordable to the average American student, find a solution for the piles of debt many of them are in (in some cases, students have to rely on food banks because they're in such a bad financial situation), and improve the job market in such a way that the younger generation will look to the future with hope and optimism, then I guess we have a winner.”

Adam D. (22, Colorado): “Anything related to the funding and support of the arts. ”

Adam B. (19, New York): “Honestly, I think Obama has pretty much done whatever he can with regards to our generation. He was the catalyst behind the social network movement for politicians, which provided a huge platform for connecting with youth such as ourselves. I think he should just continue to utilize social media as he has done and it will continue to entice voters. Also, the collaboration with Shepard Fairey to make that poster with the block coloring really hit home with youth populations. He should continue once again in this line of thought.”

Daniel (19, Virginia) : “From a campaigning/PR perspective, there probably has never been a president that has achieved such a level of 'coolness' in the eyes of the youth. I'm sure you've seen Obama on Jimmy Fallon doing the 'slow jam the news' skit. He also connects with sports fans and generally comes off as one of the guys despite his intense intellectual background (U Chicago/Columbia/Harvard). From a policy standpoint, I think the biggest concerns for American youth are definitely the job market and education. If he can improve the economy and make education more affordable, his popularity among the youth can only increase.”

Anna (21, Colorado) : “For me, the most obvious answer would be some plan for the economy, especially because this generation of voters is either in or about to enter the work force. I think his student loan plan is definitely on the right track, but the underlying problem is not the student loans themselves but the fact that college and grad school costs are astronomical in the United States.”

Patrick (21, Colorado): “Immigration reform is huge, and I am all for making school cheaper. I obviously don't want to pay a 7% interest rate on my student loans. Unfortunately, however, I think meaningful reform of anything will have to come after deficit reduction in the current political environment. So I think the thing I want to see is for President Obama embrace a comprehensive, fair, and meaningful deficit reduction plan. I'm talking Simpson-Bowles 2.0 or something similar. Our leaders have made it the number one thing we need to get done so I think he needs to get it done. On the foreign policy side, I would like to see him continue to shift responsibilities which have traditionally been the role of our diplomats back to our diplomats and make our them, and not our military, the face of the United States around the world.”

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As you can see, there are various priorities amongst millennials. However, Obama’s undeniable “coolness” and support for education make him a favorable candidate in the eyes of many of my peers. Now all that is left to see is whether or not he can live up to some of the promises that he has made.