- (Photo: Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
High unemployment may cost the president one of his most beloved voting blocs – college students.
A recent survey shows that young adults, who overwhelmingly favored Barack Obama in 2008, plan to focus more on policy than charisma in the 2012 election thanks to high unemployment among college and high school graduates.
National statistics show that employment rates among young adults under 30 are at historic lows.
The employment to population ratio among young adults ages 16 to 24 rests at 45 percent – the lowest level since the Labor Department began tracking this demographic in 1948. More than 17 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds are looking for a job but cannot find one – the highest rate of unemployment in almost 30 years.
Millennials are losing their confidence in their leaders as a result.
A survey released by youth organization Generation Opportunity shows that 54 percent of young adults ages 18 to 30 agreed things here in the United States have gotten off on the wrong track. Sixty-nine percent say that political leaders do not reflect the interests of young adults.
Paul T. Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, believes young Americans' growing dissatisfaction is going to change the way they participate in the next presidential election.
"I think there is a tendency [among politicians] to go out and communicate with young adults and get them fired up for election," Conway said. "Then when it comes to creating public policy and creating solutions for the country, their (youth) voices are not incorporated and they’re not closely listened too."
During the 2008 election, President Obama rallied thousands of young adults, speaking at several college campuses. As a result, national polls show the 75 percent of voters age 30 and under turned out to vote that year. Of those who voted, 61 percent supported Obama – much higher than any other age demographic.
Now, under a third of young adults (31 percent) approve of the President's handling of youth unemployment, the Generation Opportunity survey shows.
Conway believes that in the upcoming political election, young adults are going to be more critical of the candidates.
Fifty-seven percent of 18- to 29-year-olds questioned say they will learn more about the policy positions of presidential candidates in the 2012 election than they did in 2008.
As a former chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Labor during the Bush administration, Conway believes politicians need to pay attention to young adults' concerns. He noted that in less than a decade, millennials will make up over a third of the U.S. electorate.
"In order to plan for the future, for an America that's going to be strong enough to compete with China and India and other countries, we must have the insights and we must have the full creativity of those in this country who are young," Conway said.
If young adults are not engaged and involved in the policy process, he fears that they will become increasingly disillusioned with the political process and America as a nation.
Generation Opportunity was officially launched last month to educate, engage and mobilize those under30. Already, the group has over 800,000 followers on Facebook and has become one of the largest and fastest growing organizations targeting young Americans.
Facebook followers weigh in on several issues and share details of their circumstances. In response to June jobs reports, several have shared personal stories of unemployment and underemployment.
Michael Andrew Alaniz, a California resident, wrote, "I've been unemployed almost two years now." He continued, "Jobs are almost non-existent out here in what once was the Golden State."
Jason Myer wrote, "I have been laid off twice since Obama was elected."
The Generation Opportunity survey shows that many young adults are delaying decisions such marriage, home ownership and family because of the tough economy.
However, Conway said millennials are still very patriotic and believe there is hope for America to change for the better.
More than half of those surveyed indicated their agreement with "American Exceptionalism" as described as an ideal of freedom and democracy exclusive and unique to the United States.
Youth, he said, are longer willing to wait for change.
Conway warned politicians, "No matter what party you represent, you better take your earmuffs off and get out of the policy tunnel and listen to the people who are going to pay the future bills because I don't think any party has them in the back pocket nor do I think they're beholden to any elected official."