Young voter drop in Obama support unprecedented

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Michael F. Haverluck (

In post-election analyses, the 11-point drop in the president's support among 18- to 29-year-olds indicates that particular voting bloc is falling away from Barack Obama on major issues.

One polling trend that isn't going in Barack Obama's favor after the presidential election is the drop in his support among young voters. Even though it might not be as unbelievable as winning 100 percent of the vote in 59 Philadelphia precincts ─ and nine Cleveland precincts ─ an 11-point swing in support away from Obama is lifting some eyebrows on both sides of the political spectrum ... particularly because that swing comes from the president's strongest segment of voters.

This 11-percent drop in support among the 18- to 29-year-old age group is the largest drop in that demographic in U.S. history for an incumbent president who won re-election.

It begs the question: To what can this largest demographic swing be attributed?

America's largest grassroots and social media organization reaching out to that particular age group, Generation Opportunity, has mobilized teams across the nation to influence and change millions of young adults' views on a number key political issues.


"President Obama saw the highest defection rate from his margin of support in 2008 of any age group among young Americans [ages] 18 to 29, who swung away from him by a stunning 11 percentage points," says Generation Opportunity president Paul T. Conway. "Underneath these numbers, young Americans are truly reshaping how they think about issues like unemployment, job creation, taxes and regulation."

And what makes this plunge in support ─ attributed to disillusionment in the economy and big government ─ so significant at this time?

 "Young people increasingly view the economic policies coming out of Washington through the lens of unemployment, as they, their friends and their family members are experiencing the highest sustained level of unemployment since World War II," Conway points out. "The fact that young Americans will represent 38 percent of the electorate by 2020 makes this all the more relevant."

Generation Opportunity began its campaign to inform young Americans about dangers of expanded government and increased federal spending in June 2011, as it presented them with a clear alternative. The campaign was designed to give this sector of society ─ which has been disgruntled with the broken promises of the Democratic ticket ─ a new voice.

The grand scale

The movement to turn the tide of complacency ─ with a leftist ticket that failed to deliver on its promises from four years ago ─ has had no ordinary following. Generation Opportunity mobilized an innovative campaign that zeroed in on educating young adults via social media, field events and earned media. This pulled tens of thousands of young Americans into the political process, registered new voters nationwide and trained thousands of conservative activists to get the word out via radio program appearances, letters to the editor and town halls.

Generation Opportunity (logo)The grassroots organization's impressive online presence pulled in more than 4 million "Millennials" who made up its Facebook fan base, which produced some 1.1 billion views, along with 9 million+ interactions that included likes, comments and social shares that made conservative messaging on the economy go viral.

GO's ground force was equally as impressive.

"Generation Opportunity's field organizers engaged, in person, over 250,000 young adults at over 600 targeted events nationwide," reads a statement denoting the operation's magnitude. "Major events included the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC) annual convention, American Student Government Association leadership conference, the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and over 500 state, county and community events, such as Earth Day festivals, concerts, sporting events, farmers markets and various cultural festivals."

Young people were organized by the organization's field team in numerous states across the nation, including North Carolina, Missouri, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maine, Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, California, New Jersey, Nevada and many others.

Results at the polls showed that the multi-front campaign made a huge difference from the last election, particularly on its targeted group.

"In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama won 18-29 year olds by 34 points (66 percent to 32 percent)," Generation Opportunity reports. "This year, President Obama won 18-29 year olds by 23 points (60 percent to 37 percent). The youth vote swung 11 points away from President Obama, more than twice any other age demographic. No other demographic showed movement anywhere near this: 30-44 showed +1 percent point increase in support for Obama from 2008; 45-64 showed -5 percent decrease in support for Obama since 2008; and 65+ showed -4 percent decrease in support for Obama since 2008." (More details on this from Generation Opportunity)

Defying the odds

If there was one voting bloc that the Obama team thought would repeat its dominating performance from 2008, it was the 18- to 29-year-olds. Confident that Romney wouldn't be able to chip away at the president's support in this sector, the Obama administration, along with major media outlets and grassroots organizations, all forecasted that the numbers on November 6 would reflect their conventional wisdom.

profiles in front of U.S. flagBut come the big day, these household names discovered they had it all wrong. The Associated Press, Pew and the Huffington Post all anticipated that less young voters would show up at the polls in 2012 when compared with the 2008 turnout, but polling numbers actually shot up one percent from 18 percent to 19 percent with this segment. The three also missed the mark when projecting that the president would at least equal his margin of victory in 2008 with young Americans, but the deficit over his opponent actually dwindled from 34 points to 23 points in 2012.

And Generation Opportunity is poised to continue to be a spoiler into the future, announcing plans to augment its comprehensive campaign over the next two years. It promises an even more assertive deployment on the state and national level going into the next election. GO's president wasted no time in letting the nation's president know that millions of young Americans will be watching his every move in the months ahead, which will affect the outcome of 2016.

"In the days ahead, it will be important for President Obama to remember that young Americans want meaningful, full-time jobs in their career paths of choice and are increasingly looking for less government involvement in their daily lives," Conway contends.

"They have given the President another opportunity to fulfill his promises, to match his actions to his rhetoric, and to demonstrate an ability to achieve results in these areas. Over the next days and years, young Americans will watch carefully to see if the President honors his commitments; and if he fails to do so, they will continue to work with organizations like Generation Opportunity to hold him and his allies in Congress accountable."

Conway further reminds America that the battlefield is no longer won on the conventional fronts of TV debates, commercials, signs and speaking events ─ the campaigning of the future must be fought digitally by bombarding a more technically savvy society on their computers and mobile devices.

"For future campaigns, the results of the 2012 presidential election further demonstrate, yet again, that to succeed in garnering the support of young Americans, they must engage them fully in social media and must embrace the technologies that young Americans utilize to inform their opinions," Conway argues.

"More importantly, campaigns need to demonstrate that they respect the intelligence and influence of young Americans and provide them the content necessary for individuals to reach their own conclusions."

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