The epic adoration of then-candidate Barack Obama by the nation’s youth in 2008 was historical and unprecedented. College-age youths, mostly between 18 and 24 years old, came out in droves to campaign events, volunteered for Mr. Obama and, in the end, voted for him in overwhelming numbers. In fact, in the 2008 election, voter turnout among college-age youths surged to its highest level in 16 years.
New survey data show President Obama rapidly falling out of favor among young Americans. In a poll commissioned by Students for Life America (SFLA), just 53 percent of respondents said they would vote for him today, down from the 66 percent who cast their votes for him in 2008. The poll also found that 49 percent of young adults think Mr. Obama has done a “fair” or “poor” job during his tenure.
This tracks directly along the lines of a Gallup poll also released recently, which showed a 20-point drop in those young adults who said they would vote this election versus in 2008.
Sure, the president has tried to reignite the passion by promising to forgive some student loans and play class-warfare games, but will that afterthought be enough to get the youths to remember to vote on Election Day? Maybe not.
After nearly four years of Mr. Obama’s economic policies, which have seen skyrocketing student debt and grim unemployment prospects for those out of college, young voters’ collective love affair with the president has abated. Youths are recoiling as he rolls back fundamental American freedoms — the Health and Human Services mandate, Obamacare, etc. — while the overall unemployment rate remains mired above 8 percent. Recent data underscore the worsening youth unemployment crisis, with the jobless rate among 18-to-29-year-olds reaching 12.8 percent for June.
Results from the gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin were consistent in showing a far less liberal voting bloc than the one four years ago, and if that election is any indication, young adults are much more open to voting conservative in 2012 than they were in 2008.
Other data points from the Students for Life survey reveal the shifting contours of youth support, especially in the face of facts about Mr. Obama’s radical position on abortion and actions to curtail religious freedom. In fact, the poll found that young adults are less likely to vote for a candidate who forces people to go against their consciences or religious beliefs, a central component of the mandate included in the president’s health care law.
Like most Americans (77 percent, according to a new Charlotte Lozier Institute poll), young adults find the process of sex-selective abortions abhorrent. A whopping 74 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds in the SFLA poll said they thought aborting a baby based on its gender (usually a girl) should be illegal, representing a clear challenge to Mr. Obama’s fringe position. He may have the nation indebted to China, but young people don’t want him to adopt China’s position on babies.
The dearth of support for total and complete abortion on demand among youths is seen in the gradations of viewpoints they hold. About 45 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds say their position on abortion is either to ban it outright, allow it only in cases to save the life of the mother or in conceptions from rape or incest. Relatively few share Mr. Obama’s position of abortion for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Young adults can’t and won’t be forced into one specific box. They care about the economy. They care about religious freedom. They care about how this nation treats its most vulnerable and the rights of freedom of conscience. Mr. Obama’s failed presidency is costing him precious ground among those who were among his most ardent supporters. Will a cynical ploy on student loans really distract youths from four years of economic failure? Or will young adults throw the president a curveball and realize a lot more is at stake than a mere popularity contest or empty promises of hope and change?
Kristan Hawkins is the executive director of Students for Life of America. Kelly-anne Conway is the president of the Polling Company Inc.’s WomanTrend.