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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

DCorps Survey: Economic Change Key to Winning Youth Vote

Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner have just released the results of their fourth “Youth for the Win” survey of young voters, and the conclusion is good news for Senator Obama and Democrats — with a couple of caveats. Among the findings in the analysis:

The last six weeks saw the inauguration of a serious, McCain-sponsored offensive against Barack Obama, as well as an effort in the Obama campaign to “moderate” their candidate. And, at least among youth, the impact of these events has been notably modest. While we see some movement in Obama’s support among young people of color growing even stronger and softening a bit among white youth, overall this has been a period of remarkable political stability. Obama consolidated some of the gains we saw in the June survey and still posts a convincing 27-point margin (60 – 33 percent) over McCain…Historically, this lead exceeds Kerry’s margin among youth (54 – 45 percent) and reflects the Democratic Congressional margin in 2006.

However, the analysis also notes,

John McCain recovers somewhat from his post-primary nadir among youth, arguably highlighting a political price for the progressive failure so far to really define this candidate, but in their enthusiasm for Obama and their commitment to vote, young people have not changed. Most indicators still suggest both a record turn out and margin in November.

But it’s critical that Dems understand the economic struggles young people are facing:

As a more economically vulnerable demographic group—often competing for entry-level jobs with limited benefits, most surviving on a single income—young people then represented a “canary in a coal mine” of sorts for the rest of the electorate, previewing a broader concern over the economy….Nearly half are a missed pay-check away from having to borrow money. Three-quarters owe some manner of debt, including a third who owe student loans. And one in five has had a utility cut off for failure to pay a bill.

And, one of the key challenges for Dems:

Gas prices are, of course, a major concern among young people. In a recent survey of youth that GQR conducted for Qvisory, young people identified gas prices as their leading financial concern. This is also an issue where McCain and Republicans have, at least, an argument. Young people in this survey divide evenly on whether drilling for coastal oil is a good idea (44 percent say this drilling will hurt the environment and not help with gas prices; 44 percent say it is a good idea and will decrease gas prices). Even among liberal Democrats, only 51 percent support the environmental position here. Among young people facing a heavy financial burden—an overwhelmingly Democratic group (58 percent Democratic, just 16 percent Republican)—nearly 48 percent believe drilling in coastal regions is a good idea.

Tha analysis concludes:

Maintaining or even expanding the youth vote means speaking to their biggest issue—their real financial challenges. Arguably, neither Obama nor McCain has directly addressed their economic concerns in a fashion that meets young people where they are in their lives. It is about holding McCain accountable for the current economy (see last Youth For The Win report) and providing an alternative that can have a direct impact on their lives and economic standing….

DCorps’ next youth survey will address “what young people believe is at stake in this election and what they hope to change in this country.” No doubt it will find attentive readers among candidates and campaigns who are in it to win on November 4.

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