College students: the voters President Obama has forgotten aboutBy Austin Gaddis | 03/21/2012 11:10pm
In a speech to supporters at the University of Michigan in January, President Barack Obama spoke to a demographic he’s seemingly ignored since asking for their vote last election – college students.
Young voters eager to see a candidate they felt would fight for them, bring change and restore trust in Washington essentially made Obama’s historic election possible, claiming 66 percent of a young demographic that turned out in record numbers.
Obama told the Michigan students that his administration would be putting colleges across the nation “on notice” that the days of outrageous tuition hikes were over.
Great, simply put them on notice. Take no action.
Unfortunately for students, Obama’s track record of acting on the hikes has been practically nonexistent. Under the current administration, college tuition has increased over 25 percent and shows no sign of slowing down.
For Obama, false rhetoric with no action has become increasingly too common.
Facing a tough reelection campaign, Obama knows that he must motivate Americans to still believe in the change that he championed he would bring. He knows he must somehow deliver a message of hope in the middle of chaos.
However, with record unemployment, astronomical gas prices, massive national debt, foreign turmoil and political stalemates, young Americans are callously realistic about the current state of our nation and the failed leadership of Washington.
According to a recent study by the Harvard Institute of Politics, only 12 percent of young voters think the country is on the right track. The same study revealed that Obama’s current approval rating among voters under 30 has dropped to the lowest point in his presidency. The approval numbers are even lower among college students surveyed.
In an oppositely surprising change, college students made up nearly 50 percent of the attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Committee conference, a mecca for right-leaning voters. The Daily Beast reported that collegiate participation at this CPAC is up 233 percent from just five years ago.
The reason for the change is simple – students aren’t fooled by Obama’s empty rhetoric this time around.
As students, we feel the impact of the rising gas prices every time we go to the pump. We know the job outlook post-graduation looks bleak. We have friends and family who are unemployed. This time, the election hits home.
Even on social issues, Obama doesn’t live up to the change that he promised. Other than the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, it will be hard for Obama to point to a single social issue that he has devoted significant time to improving. This, too, is hard for voters to forget.
Faced with an awkward dilemma, young voters – particularly college students – now stand at a crossroads.
We yearn for a candidate that will have the economic sense to implement pro-growth initiatives and improve the country’s stability, both at home and abroad. We want someone to fight to drive down unemployment and reduce the financial burden placed on college graduates.
On the other hand, social issues matter deeply to students; numerous polls show millennials tend to lean socially left. We plead for a candidate who doesn’t see the personal decisions and lifestyles of Americans in black-and-white. Honestly, we just want our government to let us be – a centrist style of living.
But in the days of political polarization, party extremists seem to be the only real base that candidates from both sides publicly appeal to. We now stand as the lost demographic, vitally important, yet repeatedly forgotten.
As the presidential campaigns move into high gear, it is important that young Americans demand representation and that our voices no longer fall on deaf ears.
Austin Gaddis is a junior majoring in communication studies and public relations. His column runs on Thursdays.