The numbers surrounding the “youth vote” – where it is likely to go and how small it is likely to be – spell trouble for Barack Obama.
1) In 2008, 51% of eligible voters aged 18 to 29 showed up to vote. They represented 18% of the total vote and supported Barack Obama over John McCain 66/34. Nevertheless, history tells us that when it actually comes down to showing up at the polls to vote, this group has a track record of falling short of their “declared” numbers. In other words, the “youth voters” can talk a good game but often don’t deliver. This is why the 58% who say they intend to vote, combined with new polling data on how they intend to vote, has to be alarming to Team Obama.
Another trip wire presented by the “youth vote” is the sizable aversion to affirmative action expressed by white 18 to 24 year olds. Maybe as much as 1/3 of today’s “youth voters” were not caught up in the Obama “excitement” in 2008 as they were too young to cast a ballot. It is quite likely this subgroup will turn out to vote at a level somewhat higher than the overall 18 to 29 year old group. This is more bad news for Barack Obama.
A new Zogby poll done for the Service Employees International Union strongly suggests that if Obama actually does manage to win the votes of this group, his winning margin will be smaller, and the pool of votes they represent will most certainly be smaller. This year, both of these measurements will work against Obama as much as they worked for him in 2008.
The Zogby survey of likely voters concludes that Mitt Romney is now trailing Obama among young voters by just 49/41, which is a 17 point fall for the president and a 6 point gain for Romney over what John McCain was able to garner. The hidden benefit for Romney in these numbers is that they come from a survey done before Congressman Paul Ryan was tapped to be the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.
Given the surge of enthusiasm Americans have exhibited since Ryan’s selection, it is not a stretch to say that Romney’s “youth vote” numbers will climb; and in the zero sum game of counting votes, that climb will come at Obama’s expense.
Could Romney actually win the “youth vote”? Yes; he is already just 4 points away, and the Ryan effect is just beginning to take hold.
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