High youth unemployment hurts Obama campaign

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The latest jobs numbers showing May’s increased unemployment rate obscured other bad news for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign: Almost 17 percent of younger voters are out of work.

That’s a cause for campaign concern because younger voters lopsidedly supported Obama in 2008 and his organizers now want youth to provide his campaign with volunteers and enthusiasm that could buoy his numbers amid record unemployment, deficits and debt.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on June 1 that 12.1 percent of young people had unsuccessfully looked for a job during the last several weeks.

The underlying data also showed that 1.7 million people aged 18 to 29 had given up looking for jobs.

The news came after a May 9 Gallup report that showed 13.6 percent of 18-to-29 year-olds were unemployed, and 32 percent were underemployed in April. That underemployment rate is up from 30.1 percent in April, and is more than twice the rate for people aged 30 to 64.

This bad news about the youth vote shows that “this demographic … is fully in play in a way that most folks a year ago weren’t predicting,” said Paul Conway, founder of right-leaning non-profit Generation Opportunity, and former chief of staff in the Department of Labor.

An April poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics shows Obama’s support at only 43 percent, with 26 percent for Gov. Mitt Romney. That 17-point gap is half of Obama’s 2008 lead over Sen. John McCain. (RELATED: As Obama pushes Paycheck Fairness Act, businesses worry about ‘unlimited lawsuit liability’)

Thirty percent of younger voters were undecided, according to the poll. Romney was ahead with white youth.

A large pool of undecideds is generally good for challengers such as Romney because undecideds tend to vote against the incumbent.

Conway’s polls show the same level of disenchantment.

“In 2012, folks are not going to be voting for charisma — they’re going to be voting for a [proven] record,” Conway told The Daily Caller. “They’re more skeptical of government and they want less of it. … They believe the economy grows best when there’s less interference.”

Harvard’s poll reported that only 20 percent agree that government spending is an effective way to increase economic growth, while 32 percent disagreed.

Conway’s operation is focused on the youth vote, and he has a small outreach team, several polls and a Facebook page where younger voters can share their views.

One significant trend, Conway said, is that many younger Americans are cobbling together a living by working several part-time jobs. That’s difficult, he said, because part-time jobs don’t pay as well and are also expensive, because people must pay to travel to and from their different jobs.

It’s even tougher outside the main cities, where workers must drive relatively long distances to their work sites, paying high gas prices, Conway said. Many of the younger votes who have temporarily given up looking for jobs are likely living in rural areas and in small towns, where there are few new jobs.

The May jobs report also showed bad news for Obama in other vital demographic groups. The report showed that unemployment among Hispanics ticked up to 11 percent, while unemployment among black Americans jumped from 13 percent to 13.6 percent.

In November, “the candidates that will do best are those that will have a critical commonsense solutions so that people can say, ‘That will make a difference in my life … and [about] how I feel about America,” Conway said.

“They don’t care about fancy charisma, they’re looking for hardheaded practical solutions and they feel the country needs that.”

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