For young adults, Obama is no longer the hipster-in-chief. Maybe it’s because of the persistent unemployment: 19% in July for 16- to 24-year-olds. Maybe it’s because they just realized that Obamacare likely means colleges will no longer be able to offer affordable health-care. Or maybe it’s because Lady Gaga now has more Facebook fans than Barack Obama.
Whatever the reason, they’re shifting, as the New York Times laments today:
The college vote is up for grabs this year — to an extent that would have seemed unlikely two years ago, when a generation of young people seemed to swoon over Barack Obama.
Though many students are liberals on social issues, the economic reality of a weak job market has taken a toll on their loyalties: far fewer 18- to 29-year-olds now identify themselves as Democrats compared with 2008.
For Democrats, this is a major disappointment. In 2008, young adults overwhelmingly voted for Obama, according to exit polls that pegged him as receiving 68% of the vote from the 18- to 24-year-old set, and 69% from the 25- to 29-year-olds. Throughout 2009 and 2010, they consistently supported Obamacare, and as recently as June, 57% of young adults still backed it.
Of course, there’s still considerable support for Democrats among young adults. But it’s no longer a 70/30 split: as this NYT graphic shows, it looks like it’s now more about 55% leaning Democrat and 30, 35% leaning Republican. That means about 15% of young adults are up for grabs, giving the GOP a chance to make the case to them that free enterprise and lower taxes will improve economic opportunity for all.
There’s no reason to believe that most young adults voting Democrat needs to be a permanent political state. My hunch is that, come November, young adults will vote for whatever candidates seem most likely to bring employment opportunities back again.