Democrats are bleeding support from young voters who helped propel President Obama into office in 2008. In a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, voters aged 18 to 34 said they would choose a generic Republican over President Obama, 37 percent to 34 percent, were the 2012 election held today. By contrast, voters aged 35 to 54 still favored Obama by a margin of 40 to 36 percent.
Obama’s approval rating among young voters—as with most other sectors of the population—has been dropping steadily since the beginning of his presidency. “Among voters in their twenties, Obama’s approval rating was 73 percent shortly after his January 2009 inauguration. A year later, in February 2010, that number slipped to 57 percent,” writes Sam Jacobs in The Daily Beast. Jacobs theorizes that the troubled economy has hit young workers especially hard, fueling their dissatisfaction with the president. The jobless rate among young workers aged 16 to 24, for instance, has hit a record high: though they make up only 13 percent of the labor force, this age group represented a quarter of the unemployed in April. And the grim economic outlook seems to have proven particularly disillusioning to new entrants into the labor force.
Democrats had been planning to use Obama’s personal appeal to persuade 2008 supporters of the president to turn out for this year’s midterm elections, reaching out to voters through groups like Organizing for America, which mobilized Obama’s grassroots army. Obama is still more popular than the Democrats or Congress, whose approval ratings are abysmally low. But it will be that much harder for the Dems to rev up youthful enthusiasm for “the president’s allies” come November.