Four years ago, young voters turned out big for Barack Obama, helping power the coalition which propelled him to the White House. Now, with signs that so-called Millennials are starting to once again line up for the president, Obama and his allies think they’ve found an issue to keep these young voters in the Democrats’ corner.
Obama made a surprise appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s late night TV program to have a little fun — but also to warn about the coming rise in college-loan interest rates coming this summer. Interest rates on student loans are set to double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent – effectively socking 7.4 million students with $1,000-a-year in student loan costs.
“In 2008, young people voted in record numbers and went for President Obama over John McCain by more than 2-to-1.1 This year, every election expert agrees that if that happens again, Obama will win easily—and the Democrats will probably win back the Congress,” says Steven Biel, of the prominent progressive group MoveOn.org. “And now Republicans have handed us a golden opportunity to fire up young people to vote in 2012.”
MoveOn.org is soliciting funds to pay for an online ad campaign in which Biel says the organization plans to place ads on the Facebook page of “every college student in America to warn them about this Armageddon of student debt.”
Clearly, Democrats and their allies believe the student-loan issue will motivate the nation’s 18- to 29-year-olds to turn out for Obama come November. After turning out so strongly for Obama in 2008, this Millennial Generation largely sat on the sidelines in the 2010 midterm elections — one reason why the GOP did so well that year.
A new national poll of 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), finds that Obama has widened the gap between likely general election opponent Mitt Romney and himself. Obama now leads Romney by a 17-point margin, a gain of six percentage points over the 11-point lead the president held in late November IOP polling.
The IOP’s newest poll results also show a plurality of Millennials now predict the president will win re-election in November (43 percent: win; 27 percent: lose), a reversal from four months ago when a greater proportion of 18- to 29-year-olds believed he would lose than win (36 percent: lose; 30 percent: win).
“Over the last several months, we have seen more of the Millennial vote begin to solidify around President Obama and Democrats in Congress,” says Harvard Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson.
Results from the Harvard survey show that despite moving to their way, Obama and the Democrats may need a strong issue like student loans to keep them out of the hands of the GOP.
“Although this generation is not as supportive of President Obama and Democrats as they may have been in the historic 2008 campaign, this in no way implies that the Republican Party has successfully captured the hearts, minds and votes of Millennials,” says Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe. “Instead, Millennials have clearly shown that they are a generation that cares deeply about our country, their role in it –- and feel that the political system as represented by both parties has not effectively engaged them on the issues that will shape their and our nation’s future.”
WATCH VIDEO OF PRESIDENT OBAMA ON JIMMY FALLON’S SHOW HERE:
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.