Democratic Path to Victory in November: Young Voters

There has been plenty of pontificating from all corners of the political and blogging establishment classes about how it is going to be a bloodbath for Democrats in November.  I don't believe in all the punditry.  I believe in getting the vote out - getting our vote out.  Recent polling data is telling us exactly where our votes are: Young voters.  Gallup reports that while on the generic ballot Democrats and Republicans were tied last month, young voters significantly shifted their preference to the Democrats, while seniors held to the Republicans by a solid margin.

Here's what Gallup found.  Note that the numbers are net Democratic numbers, so a negative number indicates a Republican preference.  There is good news in this poll.  While the swing in favor of the Democrats by young voters is the most marked (now to a 19 point advantage), every age block has shifted in favor of Democrats from August to September, except for seniors, who remained at a 12 point deficit for the Democrats.

Young voters shift to Democrats

This poll really tells us what we need to know.  Young voters made up 18% of the electorate in 2008 and chose Barack Obama by a two-to-one margin.  Our key to winning this November, too, will be the youth vote.  The vote that is always counted out by the pundits.  Even this year, the pontificators have been telling us that young people won't vote in midterm elections and woe the Democrats for having old white people mad at them.

Oh, yeah?  Here's what a Rock the Vote poll found in September:
A recent Rock the Vote poll revealed young voters are paying attention to the upcoming November election (58%), and are closely attuned to pocketbook issues, including the economy, healthcare, and college affordability. Despite expressing deep concerns about the influence of corporate and special interests on the pace of change, they say they still plan to turn out for the midterms, with 77% overall and two-thirds of those who participated in 2008 saying they plan to vote.
By the way, this just might explain the Democrats' political strategy in Congress.  Not only have Democrats and the President delivered on historic health care reform that is already helping young people stay on their parents plan and prohibiting pre-existing condition discrimination for people under 19, President Obama and the Democratic Congress have reformed student loans by cutting the middle-man banks out of the process and increasing Pell grants for college (and they are looking to do more).  Democratic credit card reform is protecting students on campuses from the credit card loan sharks.

Democrats have over and over tried to seek a vote on the DISCLOSE Act, which would force corporate funded shadow campaigns to disclose their funders and ban foreign money in American politics.  Note that corporate influence in politics is a particular concern of young people.  The Democratic House passed the legislation, and the Senate Republicans have blocked this common sense measure over and over.  Young people also care about their friends in school who have been brought here with no fault of their own by their parents.  We support the DREAM Act to give students a chance at the American dream, and we support our friends who defend this nation, be they straight or gay.  Once again, Democrats put both to a vote as part of the Defense authorization bill, and Republicans filibustered it.  We understand that it is the Republicans who slow down the pace of change.

Speaking of the DREAM Act, Gallup polling also notes that Democrats have slid among Hispanic voters.  But that was before the DREAM Act was put to a vote.  Just this week, California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (R) was forced to admit she would not support earned legalization for undocumented workers, and suddenly her poll numbers plummeted.  Coincidence?  Not likely.

But watch what else young voters care about.  They are not particularly partisan voters.  They are looking to the individual candidates, not the parties.  From the Rock the Vote polling data:
A plurality of this age group (36%) says that it doesn’t matter to them which party is in control of Congress. While the question of partisan control may be less important, addressing major issues like unemployment, the cost and quality of education, the national debt, sexual health and reducing our dependence on foreign oil is vital.
This is exactly why Democrats are smart to localize the campaigns while Republicans are nationalizing them.  Our base of young voters don't want to be told Obama is the suck and that this is a referendum on Obama.  They want to know where their candidates for Congress stand on the issues important to us.

The advantage for the Democrats is this: our party is with the young voters on most all of the important issues.  That's why they are choosing the Democrats.

The President knows this.  Young people love Barack Obama, and he gave us some love right back at Gen44.  The President reminds young people of Democratic accomplishments, and slams Republicans for their plans to cut education and health care and the future of our country.  Watch the speech.  What enthusiasm gap?



(Transcript available here.)

Just listen to the sustained cheering and applause from young people when President Obama talks about health care reform and student loan reform.  The President is right.  We have to move this country forward, and we have to keep making progress.  Can you help us get the young vote out and support Gen44?  My fellow progressives, I am Gen44.

Here is another little piece of good news that I will leave you with.  What the President, Organizing for America, and the Democrats are doing in terms of electoral strategy seems to be working.  As you know, Congressional elections are 435 individual house races in 435 districts, and 33 Senate races in 33 states.  Regional preferences, then, tell us something about what direction voters are moving.  Gallup polled by region too, and while Democrats are still struggling in most, in the last month, Democrats have made progress over the past month in every single region.

party preference by region

It's still tough for us out there, but we're moving in the right direction in the polls.  Young people understand the stakes.  We know what we have worked for.  We know we want a new America.  And most crucially, we can make the difference between a Speaker Pelosi and a Speaker Boehner.  And you know what?  We're fired up!  We're ready to go!