Obama embarks on college tour as approval ratings sour among Millennials

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, August 21, 2013

President Obama will be embarking on a two-day college tour throughout Pennsylvania and New York later this week to introduce his proposals for keeping college tuition low in the U.S. But will this tour, which is clearly targeted toward Millennials and is supposed to offer plans that would ”make college more affordable, tackle rising costs, and improve value for students and their families,” go far enough to improve his approval rating with young voters?

Several recent studies have shown that Obama’s approval rating among Americans of all ages has taken a dive in the past few months. In fact, only 35 percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of economic issuesaccording to a Gallup study released last week, while a Fox News study released two weeks ago found that six in ten Americans are sick and tired of the president’s economic policy tour and would rather see him work with Congress to enact new economic policies.

Moreover, it’s not just unemployment, the economy and student loans that are causing younger voters to shy away from Obama – but events like the revelation that the National Security Agency had been secretly monitoring Americans’ Internet and phone conversations in the name of national security. According to The Hill, two recent polls show a double-digit drop in the president’s approval rating in the three months following NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s interview with the British newspaper The Guardian.

A poll conducted by YouGov for The Economist last week found that Obama’s approval and disapproval rates swung by 14 points among young voters during the week before the NSA revelation and last week. Another poll released in June by the Pew Research Center for USA TODAY found that younger voters were nearly twice as likely than senior citizens to support Snowden’s decision to reveal classified NSA material, 60 percent to 36 percent. That same poll also found that half of all Millennials believed the U.S. shouldn’t pursue a criminal case against the NSA whistleblower – the only age bracket to feel that way.

“Younger voters tend to believe the Internet should be an area of free speech and free communication, and the idea that the government is looking into what you’re doing is distasteful — and particularly distasteful if run by a president they voted for,” Julian Zelizer, a political science professor at Princeton University, told The Hill.

“The narrative also goes against the fundamentals of President Obama, representing status quo politics and more of the same kind of policies that existed under President Bush, so Obama ceases to be an agent of change,” he added.

The president is also struggling to convince Millennials to opt into his signature legislative act – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. According to a study released in May by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, 53 percent of Millennials disapprove of how Obama is handling healthcare policy. Additionally, only 27 percent of young Americans believe that basic health insurance is not a right for all people, and that the government should provide it if someone has no means of paying for it – compared to the 42 percent who believe it is a right.

One thing is clear: Obama is struggling to hold on to the voters who supported him nearly two to one last November. Whether he actually accomplishes that feat, however, is yet to be determined.

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