In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama won 18-29 year olds by 34 points (66%-32%). This year, President Obama won 18-29 year olds by 23 points (60%-37%). The youth vote swung 11 points away from President Obama, more than twice any other age demographic. No other demographic showed movement anywhere near this: 30-44 showed +1% point increase in support for Obama from 2008; 45-64 showed -5% decrease in support for Obama since 2008; and 65+ showed -4% decrease in support for Obama since 2008.
2012 saw the largest drop in support from the 18-29 demographic for any incumbent President who won re-election in history. Underneath these numbers, young Americans are fundamentally reshaping how they think about issues like unemployment, job creation, taxes, and regulation. The fact that young Americans will represent 38% of the electorate by 2020 makes this all the more relevant.
The conventional wisdom, which was advanced and shared by numerous news outlets and grassroots organizations, including the AP, Pew, and Huffington Post, was that young people would A) decrease in turnout compared to 2008 levels, and B) vote in just as strong of a margin for President Obama in 2012 as they did in 2008. Yet, young adult turnout actually increased (from 18% to 19%) and swung 11 points away from President Obama.
Beginning in June of 2011, Generation Opportunity took to the national stage as the largest national grassroots organization focused on young Americans that presented a clear alternative to the mantra of bigger government and increased federal spending. Generation Opportunity gave a voice to the millions of young Americans who were dissatisfied by the status quo of high unemployment and a lack of meaningful, full-time jobs and were searching for an alternative.
The organization utilized an integrated strategy that combined online targeted social media, targeted field activities, and earned media to educate and, ultimately, mobilize young Americans 18-29 years old. Young adults were strongly encouraged to make their voices heard for real change.
Generation Opportunity built a variety of targeted Facebook platforms which attracted a fan base of over 4 million Millennials, garnering over 1.1 billion views and over 9 million online interactions via likes, comments, and shares of sourced information on issues like youth unemployment and the impacts of increased federal spending and debt.
Generation Opportunity field organizers engaged, in person, over 250,000 young adults at over 600 targeted events nationwide. Major events included the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC) annual convention, American Student Government Association leadership conference, the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and over 500 state, county, and community events, such as Earth Day festivals, concerts, sporting events, farmers markets, and various cultural festivals. Generation Opportunity’s grassroots field team organized young people in North Carolina, Missouri, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maine, Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, California, New Jersey, and Nevada, among others.
The organization also utilized a variety of online and grassroots tools and tactics to attract tens of thousands of young Americans to the electoral process, register new voters across the country, and train thousands of activists to make their voices heard in advance of the 2012 election through a variety of ways, including letters to the editor, town halls, and radio programs.
For 2013 and 2014, Generation Opportunity will be further expanding its reach and following among young adults across the nation through social media and grassroots activity. The organization will be executing an even more aggressive effort to fully engage young Americans at both the state and national level.
“President Obama saw the highest defection rate from his margin of support in 2008 of any age group among young Americans 18-29, who swung away from him by a stunning 11 percentage points.
“Underneath these numbers, young Americans are truly reshaping how they think about issues like unemployment, job creation, taxes, and regulation. Young people increasingly view the economic policies coming out of Washington through the lens of unemployment, as they, their friends, and their family members are experiencing the highest sustained level of unemployment since World War II. The fact that young Americans will represent 38% of the electorate by 2020 makes this all the more relevant.
“In the days ahead, it will be important for President Obama to remember that young Americans want meaningful, full-time jobs in their career paths of choice and are increasingly looking for less government involvement in their daily lives. They have given the President another opportunity to fulfill his promises, to match his actions to his rhetoric, and to demonstrate an ability to achieve results in these areas. Over the next days and years, young Americans will watch carefully to see if the President honors his commitments, and, if he fails to do so, they will continue to work with organizations like Generation Opportunity to hold him and his allies in Congress accountable.
“For future campaigns, the results of the 2012 presidential election further demonstrate, yet again, that to succeed in garnering the support of young Americans, they must engage them fully in social media and must embrace the technologies that young Americans utilize to inform their opinions. More importantly, campaigns need to demonstrate that they respect the intelligence and influence of young Americans and provide them the content necessary for individuals to reach their own conclusions.”