Apathy, not engagement, is the hallmark of this year's young voters with the presidential election less than six weeks away.
Compared to the same time period in 2008 when Obama captured the youth vote, the share of voters younger than 30 who are following campaign news very closely is about half what it was at this point four years ago (18 percent, down from 35 percent), according to a Pew Research Center report released today (Sept. 28).
Further, just 63 percent of young registered voters say they definitely plan to vote this year, down from 72 percent four years ago. And only half of adults under 30 are even certain they've registered, despite the efforts of a number of organizations committed to registering young voters online and off. In 2008, 61 percent had confirmed their registration status.
The decline in youth engagement has had little effect on the Obama campaign for several reasons. First, the drop-off is at least as steep among young voters who intend to vote Republican. Second, other segments of Obama’s electoral base — notably African-Americans — remain highly engaged. Third, declining engagement in a key Republican subgroup — moderate Republicans — at least partially offsets falling interest among the young, Pew said.
Registered voters under 30 favored Obama over Romney by 59 percent to 33 percent, a margin that has held relatively steady over the course of the year, Pew said.
But younger voters (for this measurement Pew looked at ages 18 - 39) aren't the only ones who are less engaged in this year's campaign. Among Obama supporters in the 40 to 64 age group, there has been a 12-point decline in the percentage giving a lot of thought to the election; among Romney supporters 40-to-64, there has been an 8-point decline since 2008. The oldest group in Pew's study remains steadfast: Among those 65 and older, both Obama and Romney supporters are as engaged as Obama and McCain supporters were in 2008.