Ohio State University professor Paul Beck warns that Youth Vote Gap Suggests Republicans Risk Losing An 'Entire Generation' To Democrats. Given youth unemployment rates over 10%, Mitt Romney blundered by thinking he could make big gains with voter under 30 years old just by "talking about the economy and promising to get Americans back to work," despite promising other voters to roll back Obama's programs on Pell grants, student loans, and the Affordable Care Act, all popular with young voters.
While President Obama's support among young voters dropped 6 points from 2008, he still won this demographic group by 24 points, a situation that Professor Beck says history suggests can lead to a party lock-in effect as occurred with many 1930s era FDR voters becoming Democrats for life. A similar pattern occurred with young Ronald Reagan voters.
Instead, voters ages 18 to 29 -- who made up 19 percent of the electorate, a greater share than in 2008, and half of whom cast a ballot, for the third presidential election in a row -- went for Obama by 60 percent to 36 percent for Romney.
Studies that tracked young Roosevelt and Reagan voters found they fell into a pattern of voting for the same Party by default as they grew older, according to Professor Beck:
"The clearest evidence that we have come from the 1930s," Beck said. "That's when a generation of the electorate entered and voted for [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt." After FDR's death, that generation included the strongest supporters of the Democratic party. A similar loyalty was inculcated during Ronald Reagan's years in office.
It is too early to suggest this trend will occur with millennial voters, but polling done by CIRCLE of Tufts university found younger votes declare the economy, student debt, and health care as their top concerns. Romney blundered in all of these areas.
... Romney offered no plan to tackle the growing student debt bubble. When asked about the cost of college at rallies, he said he wouldn't promise more money, and he called for rolling back Obama's student loan reform, which would have pushed more students toward student loans from private banks with higher interest rates and fewer repayment options. He also pledged repeatedly to repeal health care reform, which would have affected how young people get insurance coverage.
Tyler Kingkade, the author of this thought provoking article, reports that one right wing group, Generation Opportunity, was so convinced of large gains by the GOP that they sent out a press release, the night of the election, entitled "GOTV Efforts Show Young Adults Abandoning President Obama," however, a more skeptical view might be that this was just a brassy attempt at political spin of the media.
A recent YouGov poll shows younger voters are highly aligned with progressive values supporting abortion rights, raising taxes on the rich, supporting same-sex marriage rights, and believing global warming is real and important.
We should concentrate on developing a strategy for maximizing our chances of creating a "generational lock-in" effect. Why should we leave something this potentially powerful to chance.
What ideas, policies, strategies, groups, and operations can we advance to more highly align millennial voters with progressive values and the Democratic Party?