Obama slipping among young white voters

Obama won white voters ages 18 to 29 in 2008 by 10 percentage points over the GOP's John McCain, according to a recent Pew Research poll. He leads Mitt Romney among that group by only two points.

Rick Bowmer/AP/File
In this February 2008 file photo, then Democratic-presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters before a rally in Madison, Wisconsin. Last week, a new poll suggested that Mr. Obama's support among young people, who turned out for him in record numbers in 2008, is slipping.

Is President Obama in danger of losing young people?

Last week, a new poll suggested that Mr. Obama's support among young people, who turned out for him in record numbers in 2008, is slipping. Only 34 percent of young people between ages 18 and 24 said they were "satisfied" with the Obama presidency, and they indicated they would prefer Obama over a generic Republican by just seven percentage points, according to the poll, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University's Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Perhaps even more significant, only 46 percent said they were "certain" they will vote in November.

The polling picture is somewhat mixed: A Pew Research survey released last week found that Obama's current level support among 18- to 29-year-olds stands at 61 percent, compared with Mitt Romney's 33 percent – a spread that isn't all that different from the 66 percent Obama won in 2008 against Sen. John McCain's 32 percent. But among one specific subgroup of young voters – whites – Pew also shows a decline: Obama won this group by 10 points in 2008 but is beating Mr. Romney among young whites by just two points now.

The biggest factor behind this slippage is the jobs picture. According to a new report by the Associated Press, job prospects for young people with bachelor's degrees are at the lowest level in more than a decade – with more than half of all young college graduates either jobless or underemployed. Many are "increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs – waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example – and that's confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans," the AP report said.

The White House is making a big push to address some of these concerns. Talking Points Memo notes that the president will head Tuesday to the University of North Carolina to highlight his push for legislation aimed at keeping interest rates on student loans low.

One potential saving grace for Obama in all this is that, while young voters may be souring on him, they like Romney even less. Even last week's Public Religion survey showed that, among young voters inclined to back a Republican, only 34 percent wanted Romney as the party's nominee (throughout the GOP primary fight, Romney typically garnered a much smaller share of the youth vote than did challengers such as Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, and Romney's strongest demographic cohort has been voters over age 65).

Still, the real danger for Obama isn't that he'll actually lose the youth vote to Romney (if he did, well, let's just say that would be a very bad sign for the president). It's that young people will be disenchanted enough that they simply won't turn out.

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