Yesterday I made the claim that the electorate that sent Republican Scott Brown to the Senate in Massachusets must have looked very different from the electorate that sent Barack Obama to the White House in 2008; the collection of voters that went to the polls was much older and more conservative than what Massachusetts normally looks like.
Today a study proves that was true, and the numbers are comforting and depressing at the same time. only 15 percent of people age 18-29 voted in yesterday's special election in Massachusetts. Those voters favored the Democrat by 3 to 1. Meanwhile, 57 percent of voters over 30 showed up - which resulted in exceptionally high turnout for a special election - and those voters were considerably more conservative than their 20-something peers. The older, more conservative selection of voters ultimately sent a liberal Republican to the Senate in Massachusetts.
To compare, about half of all young people voted in 2008, and favored Barack Obama 5 to 1. It is often true that the most liberal voters become no-shows first, which is why the U.S. government is always at least a little more conservative than the average viewpoint of ordinary Americans.
The numbers should be comforting to liberals who can clearly see there is not some basic shift in the country away from Barack Obama, but are also disturbing when they reveal that young people are just as lazy and apathetic as they've always been; Barack Obama did not inspire them to become permanently involved. He made voting "cool" that year, and whether or not he can repeat that will likely depend on how the White House plays it cards from here until the midterms, and from then until the 2012 elections.
President Obama needs to throw some token of support to young people and progressives to shore up his favor with them and ensure they re-elect him and send him a stream of downticket Democrats to help him pass an agenda. Passing the healthcare bill (just to get it off the table) would be a start - albeit that is Congres's, not the president's job - and a jobs bill would be vital, but repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell and putting a little focus on higher education would make a big difference too.