Is Obama losing the young? Dave Weigel once quipped that if a headline is a question, then the answer is almost always “no.” That’s probably true in this case. But Michael Barone is wondering the same thing over at the Washington Examiner, and it’s worth some consideration.
The hailstorm of scandals pelting Washington in recent weeks have left the young generally unmoved. According to a recent CNN poll, only 41% of those aged 18-34 think the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups is “very important,” as opposed to 51% of all age groups. And while young people are more likely to be concerned about NSA privacy abuses than the general population, a Pew survey found that 51% of those aged 18-29 think terrorism investigations are more important than privacy protections, and 55% think the NSA’s sweeping court orders to track phone calls are acceptable.
And yet the president’s approval rating with young Americans is at 48%, down five points from last month, according to a CNN poll this week. What accounts for this?
Why is Obamamania disappearing among the young? One reason: Only 40 percent approve his performance on the economy, slightly less than the 42 percent among all respondents. Many conservatives have been wondering when the economic woes of young Americans — the high rate of joblessness, crushing student loan debt for worthless degrees or no degree — would sour them on Obama. If the CNN/ORC poll is right, the time is now.
One imagines a half-bearded, narcissistic twenty-something in the process of taking a selfie on his iPhone suddenly craning his neck and shouting: “My God, the economy sucks, doesn’t it?!” Why, after four years of evidence-impervious infatuation with the president, are my fellow Millennials finally waking up to the bad economy?
Perhaps because, thanks to the relentless barrage of scandals, the Obama campaign machine is sputtering. Last year, the president kept young people happy by tossing them shiny objects—gay marriage, the “war on women,”—which kept them distracted from their economic woes. But that ability to divert the public’s attention is fading. Joe Biden is currently traipsing about, shouting at innocent bystanders about the need for more gun control—but you wouldn’t know it from the news cycle. The president’s other pet project, immigration reform, isn’t getting much traction either. Without the White House engaging in its usual demagoguery over social issues, and with the press’ eye fixed on the NSA, young people’s political attention is returning to the stagnant economy.
So is President O finally losing Generation Y? Probably not. If Millennials can forgive Obama for the economy for four years, they can certainly do it for another four. But it’s nice to see the ice cracking, however perfunctory the damage might be.