Election 2012: Who Will Nab The Youth Vote?

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With promises of “hope,” “change,” and the slogan, “Yes We Can,” President Barack Obama mobilized young voters through an unprecedented grassroots and online campaign effort, winning 66% of those under age 30, according to the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

Four years later, it seems that young people’s enthusiasm has cooled.  In an April 2008 poll, 63% were psyched about the election in an April 2008 poll.  Now, only 45% are excited about November. This represents the biggest drop in “interest” of a key voting group, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC survey.  Increasing voter apathy means the so-called “Millennial” generation may be less likely to volunteer for a campaign or may even choose to sit out the election.

¿Qué paso?  The worst recession since the Great Depression, followed by an economy that has been slow to recover on Obama’s watch.  Young Americans have a high unemployment rate and are buying fewer homes, choosing instead to shack up with their papis, and delaying having kids.  Add to that the higher cost of living and the rising price of a college education.  A college degree isn’t a guarantee for graduates that they will be “movin’ on up” through job stability and opportunities to grow their money.

To shore up this waning support, this week Mr. Obama visited Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Boulder, Colorado; and Iowa City, Iowa on official “Presidential” visits – not a campaign rally – to raise awareness on college campuses that federal Stafford loans will double from 3.4% to 6.8% in July, unless Congress votes to extend 2007 legislation supported by President George W. Bush.  This interest rate hike would affect nearly seven and a half million borrowers.

The White House has changed its Twitter picture from the iconic building to text which reads “Don’t Double My Rate.”  #DontDoubleMyRate is the hashtag of a trending meme with the intention of getting college students to communicate their disapproval of the House Republican budget which the President says will not increase Pell Grant funding, but keep it at current levels for the 10 years of the budget, according to Politifact.  President Obama urged students to call their congressional representatives, to “email them, write on their Facebook page, Tweet.”

Likely Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, who on Tuesday swept the Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island primaries, supports the President’s call for Congress to freeze the Stafford loan rates.

Say what?  Yes, you read correctly.  Romney is openly agreeing with President Obama.

Why?  A pretty big clue is contained in the Harvard University Institute of Politics survey of 18 to 29 year old voters. It shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney 43% to 26%, a considerable increase from the 37% to 26% matchup in December.  Romney is undoubtedly aware that Obama leads in the polls (especially among young voters) and is trying to court them.  The question for these voters and other key groups like Latinos, women, and independents is which candidate offers the best policies and vision for our country’s future?

Are student loans and if college is affordable top issues for you?  If not, what is?

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics contributor. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.

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