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Young Voter Apathy Could Be Large Problem For Obama

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Voter apathy among the youth could be hurtful to President Obama in the November election. (Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images)

Voter apathy among the youth could be hurtful to President Obama in the November election. (Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — President Obama — whose strongest numbers in 2008 were by far with the 18-24 age group — could be facing an apathy issue this November.

Youth engagement and registration has declined dramatically since the 2008 election.

The share of voters younger than 30 who are following campaign news very closely is roughly half what it was at this point four years ago (18 percent, down from 35 percent). Just 63 percent of young registered voters say they definitely plan to vote this year, down from 72 percent four years ago.

The Pew Research Center polling conducted over the course of 2012 could be bad news for President Obama.

Obama’s support is equally strong among younger and older members of the 18-29 age group. He leads Romney by 60 percent to 35 percent among voters ages 18-24 and by 57 to 36 percent among those in the 25-29 age group. Among voters 18-21, who were not eligible to vote in 2008, Obama holds a 61 percent to 36 percent margin. Similarly, Obama receives about the same level of support from young voters who have attended college and those that have not.

In the latest Pew Research Center survey, conducted Sept. 12-16, registered voters under 30 favored Obama over Romney by 59 percent to 33 percent, and that margin has held relatively steady over the course of the year.

Not only are young registered voters less engaged, but fewer young people are registered to vote.

Polling conducted over the course of 2012 showed that only half of adults under 30 say they are absolutely certain that they are registered. This is in comparison to the 61 percent in 2008 and 57 percent in 2004.

Registration rates typically rise over the course of election years, but for youth voter registration to reach 2008 levels the figures will have to shift decidedly over the coming month.

However, any potential damage to Obama has been mitigated by three factors. First, the decline in youth engagement is not limited to Obama supporters. In fact, the drop-off is at least as steep among young voters who intend to vote Republican.

Secondly, other segments of Obama’s electoral base – notably African Americans – remain highly engaged in the election. Third, declining engagement in a key Republican subgroup – moderate Republicans – at least partially offsets falling interest among the young.

Older age groups have also seen a loss of interest that affects both parties.

The decline in engagement among voters age 40-to-64 also has come among voters in both parties. Among Obama supporters in this age group, there has been a 12-point decline in the percentage giving a lot of thought to the election; among Romney supporters 40-to-64, there has been an eight-point decline since 2008.

Engagement among voters 65 and older is similar to 2008; older Obama and Romney supporters are as engaged as Obama and McCain supporters were in 2008.

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