Looking for evidence of young voters’ dissatisfaction with Obama? Look no further than MTV.
For decades the network’s election coverage has been titled “Choose or Lose.” Launched at the time of Bill Clinton’s 1992 run, the slogan reflected youth excitement around that candidacy, and encouraged the sense that young people had a personal stake in the outcome of the race.
MTV stuck with the slogan for five election cycles — through Gore and Kerry and their lackluster campaigns. It resonated particularly strongly in 2008, when a young, charismatic Barack Obama succeeded in building youth loyalty like no candidate since Bobby Kennedy in 1968.
But now it’s done. MTV is finished with “Choose or Lose,” and will introduce a new slogan for its election programming in 2012.
Here’s why, according to the New York Times: “While young people turned out in unusually high numbers to support Barack Obama in 2008, MTV’s research into ‘Choose or Lose’ found that many felt they had lost anyway.”
Youth voters haven’t abandoned Obama, not by a long shot. His approval ratings with young people are still consistently higher than any other age group, and a recent poll found them supporting the president over Mitt Romney by 26 points. But the enthusiasm of 2008 has been muted, and disappointment with Obama’s presidency is the primary cause.
When asked which president in their lifetime had “done the best job,” voters under 30 choose Democrats over Republicans by a 62-19 margin. But Bill Clinton is the choice of nearly half, with Obama getting the nod from just 14%. In fact, a higher percentage of young people now rank Bill Clinton as the greatest president of their lifetime than voted for him in 1992.
Obama has disappointed young voters again and again. Where the percentage of Americans who say they care strongly who is elected president next year has remained essentially stable since the last cycle, among young voters it’s dropped from 81% to 69%. And though, as noted above, Obama still retains relatively high approval ratings among young voters, his “very strongly approve” numbers among youth now match national averages exactly.
In the electorate as a whole, the percentage of voters saying they’re angry with Obama has risen by 21 points since the election. Among young voters, it’s risen by just 10 points. But where more than 80% of youth said Obama feel hopeful and proud in 2008, today fewer than half do, a far steeper decline than among other voters.
President Obama is going to sweep the youth vote in 2012, and that strength is going to be essential to his re-election victory if he wins. The values of the Republican establishment are simply alien to most young people, and that divergence is a serious and growing problem for the GOP.
But while young voters are still looking for dramatic change in how the country operates, their belief that an Obama presidency could be the vehicle for such change has evaporated. They’ll vote for him again, but they’re looking elsewhere for solutions.