A new poll released Monday from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) shows President Barack Obama leading GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney 52 percent to 35 percent among likely voters aged 18 to 29 years old.
While this may seem like a bragging point for Obama, it’s important to note that this is a much smaller margin than the same age group four years ago when Obama was running against Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), when Obama claimed 66 percent of the group’s support.
The same study shows the proportion of youth paying attention to the election has risen from 56.1 percent to 71 percent.
For the Romney camp, this statistic spells opportunity.
But just how can Romney appeal more to young voters? Agree to an interview on MTV? Relax his appearance a bit? Incorporate the word “cool” into his vocabulary more and drink more beer publicly?
While the mental image of Romney wearing baggy jeans and making pop-culture references is amusing, it’s too late to change who he is now. Instead, if Romney plays smart and uses his opponent’s weaknesses in his favor, the youth vote may not be that out of reach.
Here are three avenues where Romney can reach young voters.
Simplify the deficit talk
Ask the average 20-something how many commas are in the national deficit number and you’ll get a combination of blank stares and varied numbers. To us, it doesn’t matter. The –illions run together after a certain point. Instead, Romney needs to explain what that means to us, and how he is on our side.
For the past four years, Obama has amassed huge deficits. Government spending is at an all-time high and in many ways, it’s a debt we’ll be paying off our entire lives. It is also making us – for the first time – consider our ability to someday buy a house, start a family or even retire.
Romney needs clearly to lay out his plan on how to eliminate overhead and reduce debt, but more importantly, let us know how this benefits us directly now, and 20 years from now.
Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.
It’s a scary time to be a college graduate. Our entire lives, we’ve heard “Work hard and go to college so you’ll have a good job some day.” Today, graduates with multiple degrees aren’t guaranteed a job when we graduate, and if we find one, it’s not guaranteed it will be in our field of choice.
We need to hear that jobs will be there for bright, hard-working people. Romney has certainly separated himself from Obama in his role as an investor and champion for small business. Using this to his advantage and explaining how he will create long-lasting, sustainable jobs is in his favor. We need a president who will help us create a bright and prosperous future for not just ourselves, but our families.
Because the job outlook is so grim, it isn’t uncommon to see college graduates with history and fine arts degrees paying back student loans with minimum wage jobs.
Under Obama, the cost of in-state tuition at a four-year college has increased a total 25 percent over the past four years. Already, many are considering if college is even worth the cost anymore.
Yes, Obama has said he’d lower interest rates, extend the payback period or even forgive entire loan amounts. But that is not fixing the root of the problem, which is astronomically high price tags on tuition and the large availability of “free money” when it is time to go to school.
Everyone loves a handout, but what young voters need is financial guidance and leadership and someone to look out for their best interest when it comes to affordability of education. Romney can position himself to help us map out a plan and manage our existing loans, and put a plan in place to not just make college tuition more affordable, but provide more financial education on what student loans mean for incoming college students.
Obama is cool, likeable and an outstanding public speaker. He would probably make a fun college roommate, so it’s clear to see why he’s so adored by young people.
Romney’s challenge when it comes to young voters is simply that – he needs to get past personality and looks. He is a knowledgeable investor and appears to have a passion to put America’s economy back on solid ground.
What he has to do is take that knowledge and break it down as it relates to our future. That means more to America’s young people than a president that we could see ourselves having a beer with.
Gen Y is a weekly opinion piece covering issues that matter most to younger, influential voters through their late 30s. Jessica O. Swink, a 20-something, is the digital political producer for LIN Media and contributing editor toonPolitix.
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