President Obama appears at a campaign event in Urbandale, Iowa, last week. Obama tells USA TODAY that his convention speech has a different mission than it did four years ago.
College freshmen who voted for Obama in 2008 are now entering the work force and over half of them are unemployed.
Yet 43% of them cited “jobs” as the most important issue in the 2012 election, while 35% said social issues was most vital — according to a recent study by the Panetta Institute.
The situation was not lost on GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who said in his convention keynote, “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
Pro-Romney SuperPAC Crossroads Generation quickly released an ad that shows an unemployed college graduate peeling an old Obama campaign poster off his bedroom wall.
Republican emphasis on cajoling young people to their side reflects the statistical reality that the Obama youth bubble still exists, albeit with a smaller diameter than in 2008.
In 2008, the 18-29 age group leaned Democrat at a rate of 60%, becoming a crucial part of Obama’s winning coalition.
That year only 32% of youth sided with the Republicans. Yet a recent Pew poll now shows that 18-29-year-olds are 55% Democratic, 36% Republican. The 2012 numbers are exactly midway between 2008 and 2004, when John Kerry enjoyed only 50% Democratic youth support.
Declining youth support for Obama can be attributed to numerous factors: slow progress on gay rights, global warming and closing Guantanamo Bay. Yet it should come as no surprise that jobs — probably the number one issue in this election — looms especially large for young people with little experience in the job market.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in August that unemployment for those 16-24 was 17.1%, more than twice the national rate.
However, the National Association of Colleges and Employers released a report this year saying the cloud over student unemployment was lifting. The group expected 12% more jobs to be offered to 2012 graduates than 2011 graduates.
Regardless of statistics, many young voters don’t blame the president for their employment situation.
For instance, Satyam Kaswala, 22, graduated from the University of Georgia in May and has yet to find a full-time job. He rents a sparsely furnished one-bedroom apartment and sleeps on a mattress on the floor.
Despite material shortcomings, Kaswala remains positive about his future and his that of his country.
“A lot of my optimism comes from being a child of immigrant parents. They came to America with only a $50 bill in 1984. It’s hard to comprehend the enormity of their sacrifice . I almost feel like I have to struggle to pay my dues to my parents, whose sacrifice can’t really be measured.”
He went to say that he isn’t a shill for any particular party.
“No matter who’s in office it’ll be a struggle to get back to where we were.”
Kaswala concluded that Romney’s policy proposals didn’t noticeably help young people any more than Obama’s policies had.
Kaswala was happy with Obama’s record in office and said he supports the president for fostering a culture of tolerance for gays, women, and immigrants, views he thought were in line with youth voters.
About two-thirds of college students favor gay marriage, a number up 15% since 2008, according to the Pew Research Center.
Jace White, a journalism student who graduated in May from Kennesaw State University, said he supported President Obama in 2008 and his trouble finding a job didn’t change his plans to support the President again.
“Though I admit I am more concerned this election, I feel like the condition of the jobs market is a result of poor or dishonest practices in the private sector,” he said.
White said social issues, to him, were more important than jobs.
“The economy always fluctuates. We will find prosperity again. I feel that prejudices and civil inequality — such as gay rights — in today’s world is a greater crime.”
The College Republican National Committee did not respond to e-mail and phone requests to comment on this story.
Powered by Facebook Comments