Buried in the excitement over the most recent crop of polls showing Romney’s post-debate bounce is an interesting shift among young voters, a group key to Obama’s reelection prospects.
For months, polls have come out telling widely variable stories about the youth vote. Some brought overly optimistic news while others — including Pew until just this week– showed Obama winning young voters by a margin of over 20 points. Gallup has consistently shown margins in the mid-20s for its three week rolling average.
Young voters were absolutely critical to President Obama’s victory in 2008. Extrapolating from the exit polls, almost all of President Obama’s national popular vote margin over McCain can be explained by his enormous 34-point margin among young voters. (An election simulator by Crossroads Generation shows how much of an impact the youth vote can have)
Obama cannot count on these huge numbers of young voters any longer. The Pew study out yesterday shows Romney closing the gap and cutting Obama’s advantage with youth in half, to 17 points. Perhaps most notable, of the major demographic groups presented by Pew, voters 18–29 showed the largest increase in favorability toward Romney. It’s not just that they’re growing more disillusioned with Obama, they’re warming to Romney — a huge positive sign for conservatives.
It may seem like being down by 17 is hardly a victory, but compared to where things were four years ago, these numbers are a reason to celebrate.