Romney and unemployed millennial voters not yet a match

David Tonyan | Contributor

Throughout his official campaign website and in all of his major stump speeches, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says his main priority is to help Americans find jobs. But even though millions of young adults desperately need work, they’re still avoiding Romney, according to a new study.

In August, the unemployment rate of young people aged 16 to 24 rose to 16.8 percent, double the national rate. The percentage of young people as part of the labor force fell to its lowest level in 57 years.

However, according to the study, which was released by Georgetown University on Thursday, Romney trails President Barack Obama by 16 points among voters aged 18 to 25. By contrast, Obama held only a nine-point lead over a generic Republican in a similar study conducted by the same group in March.

The president’s appeal to younger voters, who traditionally skew Democratic, is well known. In 2008, Obama beat Arizona Sen. John McCain by a margin of 66 to 32 percent among people aged 18 to 29, the highest share of the youth vote obtain by any candidate since exit polls began reporting results by age.

Winning among that population may not be a feasible goal for Romney in November, but the study does suggest Romney has at least improved on McCain’s standing.

The Republican challenger led the president by 11 percentage points among 18-25-year old white voters, a demographic that decisively preferred Obama to McCain in 2008.

Jonathan Torres, president of the Tampa Bay Young Republicans, said the Young Republicans were not planning to attempt a new approach to reach younger voters. He said Romney could still get through to younger voters, many of whom have graduated and not found a job.

“They’re having to take jobs they normally wouldn’t take due to the economic climate,” Torres said.

Torres said Romney’s online presence, featuring popular Twitter and Facebook pages, is ahead of where McCain’s was in 2008.

“The main thing is catering the message to them with specifics, not generalities,” Torres said. “Until you realize the day-to-day impact of the policies, it won’t impact your vote.”

The Young Republicans are not the only ones who see the young adult population as a potential Romney growth opportunity. Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, said Romney could still improve his appeal with that segment of the voting population.

“What Romney needs to do with millenials is to reassure them he is not scary and won’t threaten their future,” West said. “This involves recalibrating his policy pitch to make it more palatable to young people and address the fairness critique of his policies.”

Romney has 33 more days to convince young adults, with the next presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in New York.

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