Romney Could Benefit As Youth Voters Lose Enthusiasm for Obama

Gen. X Romney supporters more enthusiastic about voting, poll finds.

President Barack Obama talks to supporters during a campaign rally at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo., Aug, 9, 2012.
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As the race hurtles into its last weeks, the youth vote is becoming less of a lock for President Obama than it was for his first White House bid. And it's not because young people like GOP nominee Mitt Romney any more than Obama, it's that they just might not show up at the polls this time around.

"Millennial enthusiasm is nowhere near where it was four years ago," says Harvard Institute of Politics Director Trey Grayson.

While a new Harvard poll finds that young adults trust Obama over Romney to improve their lives 55 percent to 36 percent among "likely" voters, fewer than half of 18 to 29-years-olds said they "definitely" plan to vote at all. That number is down 19 points from 2008, when 66 percent of Millennials were registered and ready to cast ballots.

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"As enthusiasm for voting continues to slip among the country's 18 to 29 year olds, the latest poll shows a clear sentiment by young adults that Washington is broken," Grayson says. "If I am the president's campaign, I would be concerned. It is a problem."

And those disaffected youth voters are a promising prospect for the Romney campaign.

Youth turnout was a major factor that lead to an Obama victory in swing states like Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia in 2008.

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And in 2012, Romney's youth voters are much more likely to make it out to vote in November. Sixty-five percent of his voters said they are definitely going to make it to the polls whereas just over half of Obama's supporters were committed to casting a ballot.

John Della Volpe, the polling director at Harvard's Institute of Politics, says it's not too late for Romney to make up for lost time with youth voters.

"Drive directly to college campuses, talk to freshman and sophomores about the economy," Della Volpe says. "They are more likely to be conservative. They are different than their brothers and sisters. There is still an opening there."

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Della Volpe says that younger Millennials look through a different political lens than the youth voters of 2008. Four years ago, Generation X was sick of the war in Iraq, attracted to the prospect of electing the country's first black president and drawn to the Obama campaign's social media outreach.

Now, the youngest voters have come of age in a time of economic uncertainly and hyper partisanship.

"It is difficult to type cast this generation," Della Volpe says. "There are some strains of liberal, progressive policies, but I would consider this generation to be fiercely independent."

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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News & World Report. She can be reached at lfox@usnews.com or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.