But of young voters without college experience, 6.6 percent said they had been contacted by Romney’s campaign, compared with 5.8 percent for Obama. College-educated voters tend to be more likely to vote and more informed about the election, the survey found.
Four years ago, Obama got nearly two-thirds of the vote from ages 18 to 29. In several states, including North Carolina and Virginia, that was the difference in the election, according to Levine.
“It was an unprecedented split and it made the 2008 election very generational,” he said. “Young people were really an important part of Obama’s coalition, I suppose second only to African Americans.”
The difference, he said, wasn’t so much overall turnout; about the same number of young people voted as they had in past elections. The margin, however, was remarkable. While Obama made a concerted effort to mobilize young people, Levine said, “Republicans did an atrocious job to get young people to turn out.”
One factor working for the Romney campaign is the number of young people who are struggling economically. Nationally, unemployment in September was 13.4 percent among those ages 18 to 29, compared with an overall jobless rate of 7.8 percent. Those numbers are declining, which Obama’s campaign is quick to point out, but not fast enough, as Romney’s campaign often notes.
But many students seem reluctant to blame Obama for the economy; Democrats are working to drum up enthusiasm to override any latent concerns.
On a cold, wet Halloween night, as the students at Ohio State boarded the Obama campaign bus, the music was turned up loud, blasting “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” and “People get Ready.”
“Are you guys excited to vote!?!” a campaign worker said. The bus cheers.
“It wasn’t exciting at first,” said Watson. “But things have started rolling. It’s back.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.