This evening President Obama will address a joint session of Congress and millions of Americans to offer his thoughts on the state of our union, one year into his presidency. Young Americans should watch with particular interest, having played an important role in then-candidate Obama’s campaign just 14 months ago, and reflect upon what their candidate has done as President on the issues that matter most to young voters: the economy and jobs.
In his first year in office, President Obama has promised time and again to focus on economic recovery. But “stimulus” after “stimulus” have failed to create jobs. Instead, young Americans have been saddled with generational debt from astronomically high spending, even as the youth unemployment rate is higher than any other age group—at 19 percent.
Perhaps not surprisingly, President Obama’s approval ratings are slipping, even among his strongest supporters. A recent national poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government found that a majority of America’s 18-29 year-olds disapprove of the president’s handling of every specific issue they surveyed.
Almost half of young Americans (48 percent) identify the economy as the most important issue to them. On that issue, 52 percent of young people disapprove of the president’s performance. On the federal budget deficit, 58 percent disapprove. As for health care, 52 percent of young Americans disapprove. And a majority disapprove of the president’s handling of foreign policy, as well—53 percent on Iran and 55 percent on Afghanistan.
This may explain why the youngest generation of voters largely stayed at home for the three major state-wide elections since 2008. Turnout among 18-29 year-old voters was 19 percent in New Jersey, 17 percent in Virginia, and 15 percent in Massachusetts. These are telling signs that young voters are not a reliable voting bloc for the Democrats and are still up for grabs, waiting for a candidate from either party to motivate them to the polls.
So what is the state of America’s youth one year into the Obama administration? It seems they may be experiencing a bit of buyer’s remorse – while 58% of young Americans still approve of the president’s performance generally, they are not happy with the job he is doing on the issues that matter most to them.
Rachel Hoff is a young conservative activist based in Washington, D.C.