White House Eyes Youth Vote Ahead Of Midterms College students and young voters played a big role in President Obama's election two years ago. Polls show they still support him and the Democrats, though not by the record margin they did in 2008.
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White House Eyes Youth Vote Ahead Of Midterms

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White House Eyes Youth Vote Ahead Of Midterms

White House Eyes Youth Vote Ahead Of Midterms

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


NPR's Don Gonyea was there in central Pennsylvania and he talked with students about the president and the midterm elections.

GONYEA: Young people - voters under age 30 - were a major force for the Obama '08 campaign. They were excited. They were involved. They used social media, wore T-shirts, went to countless rallies. Tuesday at Penn State, Vice President Biden urged a ballroom packed with mostly students not to let down this year.

JOE BIDEN: I'm asking you all to keep the enthusiasm. It's harder now. It's harder now. Keep the phone calls going like you did for us last time. Knock on doors for us like you did last time. But most importantly, I need you to commit to vote this fall.

GONYEA: Unidentified Woman: Are you registered to vote on campus?

GONYEA: Penn State freshman Connor Mariani says he's still a big supporter of the president, but he adds that he does find himself having to defend Mr. Obama.

CONNOR MARIANI: Yesterday we met a political science major, and we're like, oh, are you going to the Biden thing? And she's like; I'm not going to listen to that socialist like person. Like, they're not socialist. They're not - I mean, they're definitely more left. But they're not trying to harm anyone. They're not trying to take complete control. They're just trying to help, you know?

GONYEA: Mariani says he is voting for sure this year. But more typical is Chardae Harris, a sophomore, who says she's not following the election closely.

CHARDAE HARRIS: No, not really. School is taking up all my time.

GONYEA: Two years ago, Harris was an active Obama campaign volunteer.

HARRIS: I haven't even really been watching TV. And to a certain extent, especially for like a college student, that's really where you get most of your information with school and stuff like that. So if I don't have time to watch TV, I don't really have time to catch up on...

GONYEA: At the Pew Research Center, Scott Keeter says voters younger than 30 are still the single best age group for President Obama. But instead of the 34 percent margin they gave the president over John McCain in '08, latest polling has young voters giving Democrats just a four-point edge over Republicans in this year's U.S. House races. Keeter says economic worries are a big part of it.

SCOTT KEETER: The economy, in particular, arguably may be hurting young people more than it is other age groups - last hired, first fired - or they - maybe they never got hired in the first place. They may have to move back in with their parents. And so it's not surprising that some of their confidence in the Democratic Party and in Obama himself would be shaken.

GONYEA: Even though polls show that young voters still have a positive view of government overall, and even though they are far more liberal on social issues than the GOP, Republicans see an opportunity.


SHAPIRO: All right everybody we're going to start with the Pledge of Allegiance...

GONYEA: About 50 members of the Penn State College Republicans gathered a few hours after Vice President Biden held his rally at a campus building known as the Hub. There was no apathy here. Sophomore Maggie Quinn...

MAGGIE QUINN: Just the fact that college students were outside the Hub at 8:00 a.m., not only at 8:00 a.m. but in the pouring rain at 8:00 a.m., really shows how passionate we are about taking back our seats in November. So really, applause to you guys...


GONYEA: Sophomore Ethan Wolfinger is here. He smiles as he thinks about what a difference two years makes.

ETHAN WOLFINGER: I could probably name about five McCain supporters, and as far as the people that are political, there is probably at least 100 people that liked Obama. So it's definitely a big shift.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, State College, Pennsylvania.

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