Maria Verdugo, a 20-year-old graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, barely remembers the presidential election of 2008 — the one that spawned a youth movement that was singular in its scope and political effectiveness — except for “something about Obama saying we needed a change.”
These days, Ms. Verdugo is so busy working to pay off her student loans that she has not decided whether to register “as a Democrat, a Republican or what,” she said.
Chad Tevlin, 19, a student trying to pay for college by cleaning portable toilets in South Bend, Ind., cannot recall if he registered to vote at all. “Pointless” is how he describes politics.
And Kristen Klenke, a music student in central Michigan, has decided to skip this election altogether. “I know it sounds horrible,” said Ms. Klenke, 20. “But there’s a lot of discouragement going around.”
In the four years since President Obama swept into office in large part with the support of a vast army of young people, a new corps of men and women have come of voting age with views shaped largely by the recession. And unlike their counterparts in the millennial generation who showed high levels of enthusiasm for Mr. Obama at this point in 2008, the nation’s first-time voters are less enthusiastic about him, are significantly more likely to identify as conservative and cite a growing lack of faith in government in general, according to interviews, experts and recent polls.
Polls show that Americans under 30 are still inclined to support Mr. Obama by a wide margin. But the president may face a particular challenge among voters ages 18 to 24. In that group, his lead over Mitt Romney — 12 points — is about half of what it is among 25- to 29-year-olds, according to an online survey this spring by the Harvard Institute of Politics. And among whites in the younger group, Mr. Obama’s lead vanishes altogether.
Young people are going to trend Democrat, there is not question about that. The smaller that lead is, the better off America is.
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