The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Young Voters Cool on Obama

The New York Times reports that the generation that came of age politically during the Obama administration (18 to 24 year-olds) are much less supportive of the president than their slightly older peers. Those voters with only a dim memory of the Bush years are trending more conservative and are more skeptical about what government can do. Given the dismal economic prospects young people are facing, this is not surprising: the unemployment rate for 18 and 19 year-olds is 23.5 percent; for those aged 20–24 it’s 12.9 percent.

In interviews with some young voters, the Times uncovered a sense of despondency and malaise. They may not be Romney converts just yet, but they aren’t lining up behind the president either:

Maria Verdugo, a 20-year-old graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, barely remembers the presidential election of 2008—the one that spawned a youth movement that was singular in its scope and political effectiveness—except for “something about Obama saying we needed a change.”

These days, Ms. Verdugo is so busy working to pay off her student loans that she has not decided whether to register “as a Democrat, a Republican or what,” she said.

Chad Tevlin, 19, a student trying to pay for college by cleaning portable toilets in South Bend, Ind., cannot recall if he registered to vote at all. “Pointless” is how he describes politics.

The data supports the anecdotal evidence. A study by the Harvard Institute of Politics found that Barack Obama’s lead over Mitt Romney among this age group is about half of what it is among 25 to 29 year-olds. In a close election, this could have an impact.

Clearly, this represents an opening for Mitt Romney, but taking advantage of it will require a certain finesse. Consider, for example, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the  Affordable Care Act: one of the law’s most popular provisions is the ability for young adults under the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans. It is worth watching how the Romney campaign balances the commitment to repeal Obamacare “on Day One” while ensuring that young people are not priced out of the market for health insurance.

Political scientists have shown that voters don’t tend to solidify party allegiance until they have voted for the same party in three consecutive elections. After the euphoria of 2008, many Democrats predicted that Obama’s success with young voters would lead his party to years of electoral glory. The dismal reality of governing under trying economic conditions has sapped that enthusiasm. As a result, the political loyalties of this generation still seem up for grabs.

Published on July 2, 2012 2:30 pm
  • Jim.

    Why should anyone who’s lived through the last three and a half years– two more years than recessions typically run — have any respect for Obama? The wonderful world he promised has not arrived. It isn’t even around the corner. We’re still in the middle of the same long, drawn-out crisis we were when he was elected. The crash just turned slow-motion, instead of being avoided.

    We still need to clean house financially. The means he is using (massive debt) only transfer the pain to the future– when those who caused the pain will be too dead to feel it, and only today’s young will be there to suffer.

    Obama and those who share his kick-the-can-down-the-road philosophy need to get kicked into the dustbin of history. Then, and only then, can our future brighten.

  • Corlyss

    The ones that do go to the polls are still going to vote for Obama.

  • stephen b

    Hey, I was a UC Santa Cruz graduate in 1978, and like Ms Verdugo did not know if I wanted to be a Republican or Democrat. I spent 25 years in the US Air Force and learned what being a Democrat meant. That’s why I will never vote for one.

  • thibaud

    “this represents an opening for Mitt Romney, but taking advantage of it will require a certain finesse. Consider, for example, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act: one of the law’s most popular provisions is the ability for young adults under the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans. It is worth watching how the Romney campaign balances the commitment to repeal Obamacare “on Day One” while ensuring that young people are not priced out of the market for health insurance”

    Finesse? Nah. Young people are smart. They know the difference between RobamaCare and ObamneyCare. One’s good, the other’s evil and tyrannical. The name alone tells you all you need to know.

    Now, middle-aged and pre-retirement Americans facing personal and family ruin on account of being denied insurance because, well, you know, it’s the American way to let insurers capriciously apply their own definitions of a “pre-existing condition” – well, that’s a different ball of wax. A little harder for the Flip-meister to finesse that audience.

    And they vote:

    Voter participation rates for the under-30 population in recent presidential races tops out at about 42%.

    Voter participation rates for the population aged 50-64 is almost 70%.

  • Randroideka

    Come November, we’ll be choosing between the prime movers of Obamacare, Romneycare, and GaryJohnsoncare. And only Gary Johnson’s is entirely fictional.

  • Rich K

    Even at 12% that leaves 88% working.At those levels there is a large base for O to extract a victory from in the fall.Same for the general populace,at 11% that leaves 89% of the work force humming along as if nothing went wrong in 08 and THAT will decide the fates come November.Who is most unhappy and willing to change the linup hoping for a better season next year.

  • http://davidhdennis.com David H Dennis

    I’m curious, is there any reason for insurance companies not to continue to allow parents to keep their kids on their plans? I mean, it’s something they can charge extra for, right?

    Why would we need a law to allow this, or do we?

    D

  • kentuckyliz

    The college students at my college (where I work) know that the President tried to double their student loan interest rate, and resisted Republican attempts to bring it back in line. I kept the press release from the US Department of Education that explained the financial aid program changes that were based on and mandated by the President’s budget. I’ve got proof.

  • Kris

    “Young Voters Cool on Obama”

    Me too!

    thibaud@4: I’ve wondered for a while: what would you consider an acceptable implementation of “pre-existing conditions”?

    Randroideka@5: “we’ll be choosing between the prime movers of Obamacare, Romneycare, and GaryJohnsoncare”

    And lest we forget, MessageICare.

  • cubanbob

    If they are on their parent’s plan, they should be denied the vote. Adults are responsible for themselves. I know its a hard concept for progressives to understand, but insurance is predicated on excluding or limiting known events that are occurring. You don’t expect your homeowners policy to cover a fire if you purchase a policy while the fire is occurring. So thanks to the liarcratic party 85% of the population has to be [profanity removed] to enable 15% to acquire a health care payment system for something they should be paying for themselves. And seniors are going to find out how $500 billion cut from Medicare is going to impact them, that money being used to finance in part liarcare. Its arrogance of the highest order to expect other people to forced to become indentured servants in order to subsidize irresponsible adults. It would be a lot cheaper to simply enroll those that are not covered in an HMO. And as for the pre-existing conditions, those people can be put on medicaid for treatment of those conditions and the rest can be covered by their health plan or pay out of pocket. The assumption that individuals are incapable of deciding what is best for them is offensive.

  • thibaud

    Hi Kris – I would follow the lead of any of the other advanced democracies on this matter.

    Btw, we went through that exercise this past weekend. Anthem has four pages, each with about 9 categories, each of which has multiple sub-categories, of medical conditions that they can deny us coverage for. Which of course, they did. Never mind that we’ve had “continuous coverage.”

    Romney is completely out of touch on this issue. His cynicism and foolishness on this matter cause me to have serious questions about his judgment. Like many people, I wasn’t really paying attention to this scandal because I wasn’t aware of his views and because we hadn’t been facing it directly. I am now.

  • B Dubya

    Have the kids finally figured out that the “freeloaders” that the Democrat spokemen are talking about are in fact the under 30′s who don’t need health insurance?

    The insureres want to mine these little left leaning darlings for all the cash they can, ecause that demographic will have little or no cause to go see a medical practitioner before they reach 30 and the money the insurance companies get from them is all gravy.

    If they don’t get insurance, on top of their loans, they get taxed.

    Perfect.

  • http://edgeofthesandbox.wordpress.com edge of the sandbox

    “Clearly, this represents an opening for Mitt Romney, but taking advantage of it will require a certain finesse. Consider, for example, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act: one of the law’s most popular provisions is the ability for young adults under the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans.”
    I seriously doubt 18-24-year-olds care much about health insurance, even if it comes with free contraception.

  • Kris

    thibaud@11:

    Clear as mud. Your preferred health-care solution is simple, but I still can’t figure out your reasoning. Let’s try the following question (and I’m not going for a debate, simply trying to understand you): assuming that health-care insurers suddenly found Jesus (ie greatly reduced administrative overhead and limited their avarice), do you think that they could have what you would consider a reasonable “pre-existing conditions” policy while still earning a small profit?

  • thibaud

    Kris – seems pretty clear to the rest of the world. Talk to the Canadians, or the Germans, or the Swedes, or the French Australians Danes Brits Dutch et al.

  • thibaud

    Kris – read this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Healing-America-Global-Cheaper/dp/B004TE6AFW

    A good review of it’s here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1T12UOVDLO80T/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1594202346&nodeID=283155&store=books#wasThisHelpful

    The bottom line here is that our private insurers are set up to generate healthy profits and handsome returns to shareholders (as well as to bandits like the United Health CEO, and the sadsack ex-pols on the make like Donna Shalala who as a director approved the United Health pay package).

    It’s precisely that maniacal emphasis on preserving the insurers’ profits that poisons our system.

    Only in the US are the wishes and profits of the private insurance sector allowed to trump all other considerations. Private insurance is a robust sector in France, but it’s a _non-profit_ sector. Private insurance is also robust in Germany and Holland, but rates are tightly regulated.

    An interesting, not altogether sympathetic to my cause, discussion is linked below, with reference to intelligent pieces by Jake Weisberg and James Fallows (you’ll have to google their articles yourself, sorry).

    http://seriousmedicinestrategy.blogspot.com/2009/08/jake-weisberg-and-serious-medicine.html

    This right-of-center author makes a distinction between what he calls “Serious Medicine” and “Routine Medicine”. The former, aka “gold-plated medicine, is the really expensive advanced stuff. America does this very well. The latter is the basic stuff, which we do well enough but can’t figure out how to deliver to everyone. Other countries ALL do routine medicine well, and most do serious medicine well.

  • Jim.

    @thibaud-

    Why in the world should we change over to a system that nine times out of ten leads to uncontrollable public debt, and in all but a couple of cases craters the family-forming rate essential to counter the problems of a greying society? (Also largely caused by an entitlement mentality?…)

    America’s performance with finances generally (and Entitlement expenses in particular) leaves me with zero confidence we’d be one of the few success cases.

  • Blacque Jacques Shellacque

    “The dismal reality of governing under trying economic conditions has sapped that enthusiasm.”

    Correction: The dismal reality of governing like a 24 carat idiot under trying economic conditions has sapped that enthusiasm.

  • teapartydoc

    Thibaud just “came out”.

  • richard40

    So some young people are finally wising up. About time. Obama is currently spending a completely bloated, and unprecedentedly high 25% of GDP, with no plans at all to reduce it. By contrast, the ryan plan will reduce spending to a much more manageable 20% of gdp. Maybe these young people are finally wising up, and realizing that when the bill comes due, and the gov goes broke, in about 20-30 yrs, us old people will be dead, and they will be the ones that get stuck with that bill. Anybody who is under 30 yrs old, and still votes for Obama, has a death wish.

  • richard40

    By the way, the 3 elections in a row rule didn’t hold with me. I voted for 3 dems in a row for prez, until I finally wised up and voted for Reagan. So it is always possible for somebody to wise up and realise the dems are now hopelessly incompetant and corrupt. I suspect a whole lot of people are going to wise up this time, since Obama is the worst president in my memory, and I personally remember over 44 yrs of presidents, and have seen some really awful ones.

  • thibaud

    Jim, it’s our system that leads to uncontrollable public debt.

    We spend twice as much per capita on healthcare for results that are with few exceptions not better than the results obtained in advanced countries that have universal healthcare.

    Actuarial realities and increasing longevity are challenges that all the advanced democracies face, but the reality is the opposite of what most Americans think: universal health care topped up by private insurance is far more efficient than our botchjob.

    Doc, I detect a labored attempt to [unnecessary jibe deleted).

    Try, doc, TRY.

  • http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/ M. Simon

    WRM,

    More confirmation of your thesis:

    http://classicalvalues.com/2012/06/a-rally-report/

    But is not Republicans they like. It is libertarians.

  • http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/ M. Simon

    thibaud,

    So you favor slavery to finance medical care?

    How liberal.

    Just to make it clear – taxation is a form of forced labor. Otherwise known as slavery. How like a Copperhead.

  • thibaud

    “Taxation is slavery.” Right.

  • thibaud

    Oddly enough – or not, given the massive amount of cynicism and disinformation at work here – the GOP leadership has repeatedly called for higher taxes on employers who provide health insurance!

    Like the ACA, the proposals of first Bush in 2007, then McCain in 2008, and now Romney ALL favor imposing limits on the ability of employers to deduct insurance premium expenses.

    In other words, the GOP like Obama favors TAX INCREASES to fund their version of health insurance reform.

    Oops.

    For more details, here’s a clear, well-researched summary by one of those “legacy media” scribes that VM despises:

    Excerpt:

    “[the ACA includes] a tax on unusually expensive, employer-provided health insurance plans. It begins at $10,200 for an individual plan and $27,500 for a family plan. Above that, there’s a 40 percent tax on the excess premiums. So if your plan is valued at $11,200, your employer will pay a 40 percent tax on the $1,000 surplus.
    Over time, the thresholds will rise more slowly than health-care costs, which means the tax grows bigger. But the idea behind the tax isn’t to raise money: It’s to change behavior. The hope is that it will pressure employers and workers to choose less-expensive plans. If it works, additional tax revenue will be generated less by so-called “Cadillac” plans subject to the excise tax than by employers delivering more of their workers’ compensation in the form of taxable wages and less in the form of expensive health-care benefits.

    “This is actually an attempt to address a core Republican concern: The tax break for employer-provided health insurance, which Republicans believe encourages employers to spend too much on health care while also making it impossible for a health-care system not based on employers to emerge.

    “Republican Ideas

    “Don’t believe me when I say that’s high on the Republican agenda? In 2007, President George W. Bush announced the only major health-care initiative of his eight years in office other than the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill. The policy, which went nowhere, sought to “level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job” by ending the unlimited tax break for employer-based insurance in favor of a $15,000 tax deduction for families and a $7,500 tax deduction for individuals to purchase health insurance.

    “In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain offered a similar plan: He proposed ending the unlimited employer deduction and instead giving every family a $5,000 tax credit and every individual a $2,500 tax credit.

    “This year, Mitt Romney’s health-care proposal — although it’s so vague it hardly merits the term — gestures toward the same idea: His website says he will “end tax discrimination against the individual purchase of insurance.”

    “All of these proposals, including the Affordable Care Act’s excise tax, work in fundamentally the same way, by imposing limits on what is now an unlimited deduction for employer- provided health insurance, thereby encouraging employers to offer cheaper health plans and provide more compensation to workers in the form of taxable wages….”

    /end excerpt

    There are few issues in the US today that trigger more mendacity, bad faith and scurrilous politicking than health insurance reform.

    Only when we start demanding honesty from our political class, and show them that we will not be demagogued by their hypocritical, foolish lies and scare-mongering about taxes, will we start to fix this horrific multi-trillion dollar mess that we’re saddled with.

  • thibaud

    Note who the winners and losers are from this BIPARTISAN effort to reduce the amount of health insurance premiums paid that employers can deduct:

    WINNERS: employees, employers, the unemployed, the US public.

    Employees get to keep more of their paycheck.

    Employers can compete more effectively for employees by offering higher wages than they can currently.

    The unemployed become more employable because the marginal cost of hiring them will decline as employers shift to less expensive health insurance plans.

    The US public benefits from higher economic growth, higher tax revenues and less money paid out in unemployment benefits due to more use of underutilized resources and improved competition for and allocation of talent.

    ONE LOSER: care to guess which industry that might be?

    The evidence is mounting that the biggest obstacle – after the public’s ignorance and the political class’s mendacity – to reform is the stranglehold of that US for-profit health insurance industry that, alone in the civilized world, is allowed to veto every sane and sensible proposal to reform to our health insurance kludge.