WASHINGTON, March 8, 2013 ― Progressives have been trouncing conservatives at the polls for years when it comes to winning the youth vote. And with President Obama, that trend has only gotten worse: Even with a six-point slide from 2008, Obama took 60 percent of the youth vote in 2012, compared to Romney’s 36 percent.
The youth vote is comprised largely of single-issue voters who are misinformed on almost everything that isn’t important to them and barely informed on the one topic that is. Maybe that’s why the theme of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference is “America’s Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives.”
CPAC, which will take place near Baltimore on March 14−16 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, is showcasing a new “school”: the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s “Conservative University.” Although it’s open to all attendees, it’s pretty clear that conservatives see the need for speed in getting the next generation on board with conservatism.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University shows that had the youth vote been evenly divided between Romney and Obama in four swing states—Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia—Romney would be president. In each of those four states, exit polling shows young voters made up 16−19 percent of the electorate.
According to CIRCLE’s director, Peter Levine, “It is because [Romney] lost the youth vote pretty decisively that he will not be the next president of the United States.” Youth ages 18−29 made up 21.3 percent of the eligible voter population in 2012.
Here’s the kicker: 54 percent of youth voters identified the economy as the number-one issue but 3 in 5 still voted Obama at a time when unemployment had been stagnant at almost 8 percent (it miraculously fell to 7.8 percent just days before the election) and GDP was growing at a kick-sand-in-your-face anemic 1.8 percent.
Perhaps what CIRCLE also found helps explain it: To be categorized as an “informed” voter only meant that a young voter could correctly answer at least one factual question about the candidates’ position on a campaign issue that they had chosen as important.
That’s a standard so low that a snail could jump over it. For example, only knowing that a candidate was against gun control or abortion or the HHS mandate was enough to “be informed” and 25 percent of those surveyed couldn’t even do that.
Is there no need to be informed about the Second Amendment, the human life cycle, or religious freedom—or is just the candidate’s position enough? On most other issues than the one they identified as most important, most young voters couldn’t even meet the study’s one-fact standard, and they were classified as misinformed.
Also consider that youth are often “informed” on what constitutes a correct position by high school teachers and college professors notorious for their liberal ideology: 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative. The statistics go up to 87 percent liberal versus only 13 percent conservative at “elite” schools.
No parent is surprised that a son or daughter is convinced they know everything. After all, one great thing about America is that you don’t have to know anything to have an opinion.
American writer and humorist Mark Twain once quipped, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” And that was before Facebook and Twitter.
Today’s youth voters are products of the digital age. Massive information, delivered in short controlled bursts without rebuttal, now substitutes for knowledge. As the Roman poet Horace said 2,000 years ago, “Men cease to think when they think they know it all.”
Yes, but they do still vote.
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