Rockstar-in-Chief? Obama's Youth Support Down Entering 2012

Posted: Dec 15, 2011 12:03 PM


Images like this one, of young people mobbing then-candidate Obama out on the campaign trail, might be harder to come by in 2012. Incomprehensible as it seems, President Obama's grip has slipped on one of his key demographics: the youth.

Approval of President Obama has fallen to 46% among 18-29 year-olds, a key part of his coalition in 2008, according to a poll by Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

The survey of 2,028 Americans often described as millennials, taken from Nov. 23-Dec. 3, showed that 51% disapproved of the job the president was doing. Obama's approval was down 9 percentage points since Harvard's last survey of this age group in February.

Obama's biggest drop this year was among young Hispanics and college students. Only 35% of white millennials approve of the president; 83% of blacks and 52% of Hispanics did.

Obama won 18-29 year-olds by more than 2-1 over Republican John McCain in 2008.

The 46% approval rating is only slightly higher than the national average, which was 43% for the month of November per Gallup. Higher turnout among a youth demographic that practically worshipped Obama helped carry him to his historic win -- in April of 2008, for example, Obama had 70% of support to Hilary Clinton's 30%.

The logical explanation for this drop is, of course, the lackluster economy. Many young Obama acolytes believed he'd turn the economy around, based on his numerous assurances in the campaign process. Upon graduation, however, young people still struggled to find jobs -- and thereby experienced the most tangible of Obama's broken promises. Indeed, only twelve percent of those polled here feel the country is headed in the right direction.

How this drop in support translates at the voting booth remains to be seen. Perhaps youth voting rates will drop to pre-2008 levels, or perhaps they'll grudgingly give the president a second term to make good on his promises. It seems highly unlikely that young people will rally around a Republican candidate in the same way they did Obama, but then, one thing is clear: a resurgence of the rabid youth support he enjoyed in the last cycle seems equally as unlikely.