Hansel and Gretel

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Libertarian Leanings of Young Voters Dampen Obama's Appeal


Libertarian Leanings of Young Voters Dampen Obama's Appeal


John Zogby @ Forbes.com
Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Universi...
Barack Obama delivers a speech at the University of Southern California (Video of the speech) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mitt Romney has spent months selling himself to the Republican base. Now, Barack Obama is working overtime trying to re-sell himself to his base of voters age 18-29.TeamObama knows that hard times and the growing libertarian leanings of young voters will make them a more difficult target than four years ago.
Just as there is no doubt Romney will easily carry reluctant Tea Partiers and social conservatives, Obama will again win the age cohort I call First Globals. But it seems unlikely he will again win 66% of their votes, or that they will equal their turnout of 2008, which matched the historic high set in 1972, the first year the voting age was lowered to 18. Four years ago, First Globals made up 18% of all voters. In 2010, that fell to 12%.
Very few of Obama’s young supporters from 2008 are likely defect to Romney. Some may not vote, and I see the possibility of others abandoning both parties and instead choosing the Libertarian candidate.
My most recent polling with JZ Analytics found Obama’s approval rating among the 18-29 group in the high 50 percentile, up from where it had been a few months earlier. Approval rating is a good indicator of whether voters will support an incumbent, so you can see Obama is behind where he needs to be among younger voters. Obama’s youth vote problem is most acute among those 18-24 who entered the job market since he took office and are not finding work that meets their expectations.
Last week, Harvard’s Institute of Politics released an online study of more than 3,000 U.S. adults ages 18-29. This exhaustive look at the policy priorities of First Globals finds the economy and jobs are far and away their highest concern. That data point and others show why support for Obama has slipped since 2008. They favor Obama over Romney, 43%-26%. There is an 11-point difference in Obama’s margin between those 25-29 (23 points) and those 18-24 (12 points.) Congressional Democrats have a higher approval than Republicans, 39%-25%.
However, on some key issues, majorities of First Globals are not doctrinaire liberals. The poll found less than majorities agree with liberals on   some of their most cherished beliefs.  For example: 44% agree health insurance is a right government should provide for those who can’t afford it, 43% agree with the same statement about food and shelter, 37% agree government should spend more to reduce poverty, 20% agree government spending is an effective way to economic growth and 28% agree government should do more to curb climate change even at the expense of economic growth. (That last number has to hurt environmentalists.)
Lest Republicans get too giddy at those findings, they should also know less than majorities agree with these conservative and neo-con ideals: 22% agree it’s sometimes necessary to attack potentially hostile countries rather than waiting until we are attacked, 23% are willing to give up some personal freedoms for the sake of national security, 39% agree cutting taxes is an effective route to economic growth, 24% agree we should eliminate all barriers to trade, 25% agree recent immigration has done more harm than good, 21% agree religious values should play an important role in government and 25% agree homosexuality is morally wrong.
These attitudes betraying both the traditional left and right fall generally within the bounds of libertarianism. Live and let live.  Individual responsibility is as important as collective responsibility. Avoid military interventions. Distrust both government and corporations. Protect civil liberties.
Young voters have been the energy behind Ron Paul (remember him?) He is still in the GOP race for President, apparently looking to impact the party platform. Had Paul chosen to be the nominee of the national Libertarian Party, he would have had the biggest impact of any third party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. Libertarians meet this week to choose their Presidential ticket. Gary E. Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, who briefly ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is the most likely nominee. He wants to legalize marijuana, and that is what the media will likely most focus on. Johnson expects to be on the ballot in all 50 states. That will be his chief resource. I don’t expect the debate commission will give him a chair alongside Obama and Romney. But the I
nternet will give him access to the many First Globals who aren’t keen about either major party choice.
Should any battleground states be decided by one or two points, the Libertarian candidate could tip the balance. In an interview with the New YorkTimes, Johnson said he expects to take more votes from Obama than Romney. We’ll see.
It’s for sure Obama will continue campaigning on college campuses, and in live and media settings where voters under 30 can be found. He is now drumming Republicans over the head about keeping student loan rates from going up. Democrats will go all out to paint Republicans and Romney as out of touch on social issues and in the pockets of the infamous 1% vilified by Occupy Wall Street.
Those are good themes for Obama, but he must frame his appeals to young voters’ libertarian impulses or risk falling short of the margins he needs for re-election.