Recent college grads sour on Obama, surveys say

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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A very large proportion of recent university graduates have soured on President Barack Obama, and many will vote GOP or stay at home in the 2012 election, according to two new surveys of younger voters.

“These rock-solid Obama constituents are free-agents,” said Kellyanne Conway, president of The Polling Company, based in Washington, D.C. She recently completed a large survey of college grads, and “they’re shopping around, considering their options, [and] a fair number will stay at home and sit it out,” she said.

The scope of this disengagement from Obama is suggested by an informal survey of 500 post-grads by Joe Maddalone, founder of Maddalone Global Strategies. Of his sample, 93 percent are aged between 22 and 28, 67 percent are male and 83 percent voted for Obama in 2008. But only 27 percent are committed to voting for Obama again, and 80 percent said they would consider voting for a Republican, said New York-based Maddalone.

That’s a drop of almost 60 points in support for Obama among this influential class of younger post-grad voters, who Maddalone recruited at conferences held at New York University and Thomson-Reuters’ New York headquarters.

The bad news for Obama was underlined May 19 with a report by a job-firm Adecco that roughly 60 percent of recent college-grads have not been able to find a full-time job in their preferred area. One-in-five graduates have taken jobs far from their training, one-in-six are dependent on their parents, and one-in-four say they’re in debt, according to the firm’s data.

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Overall, roughly one-third of young voters have some college education, and one-half have college degrees, said Conway. Many are underemployed or unemployed, they’re worried about their debts and economic trends, and they’re worried about the value of their educations, she said. In 2012, she said, “I suspect a fair number will return to Obama, but maybe not enough, and not in the [swing] states where he needs them,” she said.

Those states include Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Indiana, Virginia and Iowa, she said. All were won by Obama in 2008, and all were lost in state-wide elections to GOP candidates in 2010, she said.

The GOP is making some progress towards earning their votes, Maddalone said. For example, 38 percent of his respondents said the GOP is “doing a good job addressing and engaging with young professionals,” and 58 percent said they would consider voting for the GOP “if you felt that Republicans were doing a good job addressing and engaging with young professionals.”

Only one-in-six of his respondents voted for the GOP presidential candidate in 2008, and 80 percent of those said they would vote GOP again, said Maddalone.

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“People have had time to reflect on how they voted in 2008, and now they’re thinking about whether they have a job or like their job,” said Maddalone. As their trust in the federal government shrinks, they’re becoming more self-reliant, as their attitude shifts from “‘yes, we can,’ to ‘yes, I can,’” he said.

This shift, he said, “is not really being discussed.”

Still, there’s a wide gap in priorities between the millions of crucial swing-voters in swing-states — Ohio, Florida, Virginia, for example — and Maddalone’s group of mostly male, urban, and upwardly-mobile professionals.

Many of those swing voters have already pulled the lever for GOP candidates in 2010, but 59 percent of Maddalone’s respondents said the GOP is still not “doing a good job addressing and engaging with young professionals.” This gap isn’t merely created by the parties’ economic platforms. One in six of the respondents said would not vote GOP even if the GOP was “doing a good job addressing and engaging with young professionals.”

Some of those gaps were evident in a recent survey by California-based RK Research. One thousand college students ranked education, economic and health care as their top three issues, but credited top marks to the GOP for its stance on military issues and a “business-friendly environment.” The students ranked the GOP low on environmental, immigration and gay-rights issues, but they also ranked those last two issues as a low priority.