Obama Campus 2012

In the next 10 months, we shall see the college campus to be a center of Democratic activity.  The reason appears in this short piece at The New Republic
by Ruy Teixeira. 
According to Teixeira, the youth vote is crucial to Obama’s
reelection, 18-29-year-olds forming one of his strongest support groups. 
In 2008, the youth vote went for Obama by a 2-to-1 rate, a huge
disparity that, I believe, has never been seen before in presidential
If those numbers hold up, and if the youth vote turns out as well
as it did in 08, when 51 percent of them went to the polls (a huge gain
over the 40 percent that turned out in 2000), Obama’s prospects improve
significantly.  It may
make the difference.

Teixeira cites a Pew survey that has Obama crushing Romney among the youth by 24 points, 61-37 percent. 
He also notes how Obama’s recent populist statements resonate
with under-30-year-olds, who sympathize strongly with Occupy Wall
Moreover, because youths feel disproportionately affected by the
recession, they want more government action, and Obama has wisely
(according to Teixeira) promised to provide it. 

The breakdown charts a campaign strategy, Teixeira explains:

Nationally, he could break-even or a
bit worse among middling age groups (30-64) but still win if he carries
18 to 29-year-olds by significantly more than he loses seniors, as he
did in 2008, since the two groups tend to be
of roughly similar size in presidential elections. But if he carries 18
to 29-year-olds by significantly less than he loses seniors, as
congressional Democrats did in 2010, he will lose.

This translates into state-by-state tactics, and
according to Teixeira, the numbers for several of them turn the youth
vote into a decisive factor. 
The Republican candidate will certainly carry the Silent
generation (the cohort preceding the Baby Boomers), which according to
Pew favors Romney over Obama by 13 points (54-41 percent). 
If Obama and the Republican candidate share middle-age voters
equally and the 08 figures for the youth vote hold up, he will overcome
his disadvantage among the elderly. 
In Ohio, for instance, in 08 the youth vote and the elderly vote
each amounted to 17 percent of the total, but the discrepancy was much
wider among the youths (61 to 26 percent in favor of him) than among the
elders (55 to 44 percent against him). 
If Obama can maintain the 17 percent figure for 18-29-year-olds, then Ohio is his, Teixeira concludes. 
Similar situations may be found in Nevada and Virginia.

This means that a simple get-out-the-youth-vote
plan means big scores for the Democrats, even if the plan has not a
whiff of partisanship to it. 
And college campuses are a prime area of contact between campaign
activities and young individuals who otherwise watch no TV news shows,
read no newspapers, and can’t name the three branches of government. 
Expect lots of register-to-vote tables popping up outside student activities buildings. 
This is a terrific opportunity for Democrats, and with the civic
religion of America behind it (which says that everybody should vote), I
see no way for Republicans to blunt it or turn it to their own


  • Mark Bauerlein

    Mark Bauerlein is a professor emeritus of English at Emory University and an editor at First Things, where he hosts a podcast twice a week. He is the author of five books, including The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupefied Youth to Dangerous Adults.

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