Young Democrats hailed US President Barack Obama’s record on Sunday ahead of the party’s convention, vowing the president will again galvanize young voters despite the bleak economic backdrop.
“President Obama has been extremely committed to young people since the first day that he took office,” Rod Snyder, head of the Young Democrats of America, said in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the three-day convention will officially kick off today.
Praising the president for extending college grants, Snyder said that under Obama’s health care reform, young people can stay on their parent’s medical insurance plan until aged 26.
“One of the top issues in 2008 was the war in Iraq. That’s one of the reasons why many young people supported Barack Obama from the beginning. He brought that war to a responsible end,” he added.
Alejandra Salinas, president of the College Democrats of America, recalled that Obama had vowed during the 2008 campaign to become an advocate for youths in the White House.
“He has proven that every day,” she said.
Four years ago, 66 percent of people under 30 voted for Obama over his Republican foe Senator John McCain, according to exit polls.
Channeling a message of hope and change, the youthful candidate inspired large crowds on campuses all across the country.
However, youngsters who helped make Obama president have grown up in an economy still suffering from the recession, struggling to find work and moving back in with their parents.
According to official figures, more than 17 percent of Americans aged 16 to 24 are currently unemployed. Within the same age group, unemployment in the black community stands at 29 percent.
Research by Generation Opportunity, a non-partisan group working with Americans aged 18 to 29, shows the depth of pain among America’s youth.
Eighty-nine percent of young people said the economy was having an impact in their daily lives, and many had cut the amount of money they spent on entertainment, vacations and groceries. Seventeen percent had put off a lifetime moment like a wedding.
A recent surveys suggest Obama’s support among young people is slipping.
A CNN poll had him down 10 points compared to four years ago, but still leading his Republican rival Mitt Romney by 56 to 37 percent.
“Looking at the polling and the data coming out, Barack Obama still has a sizable lead among voters under the age of 30,” Snyder said, adding that the Republicans failed to give young voters an alternative at their convention last week in Tampa, Florida.
“There was not a single new idea that came out of Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s speech to address youth issues,” he said.
The Democrats will try to reignite the “Yes, We Can” enthusiasm of Obama’s last presidential bid at the convention, organizing a host of events to get young people involved.
“We engaged young people across the country in this historic event like never before,” said Tori Taylor, youth engagement coordinator of the Democratic National Convention Committee.
“Young people are an important part of the political process, and their participation — our participation — will be important as we head into November and the election,” said Angela Rye, whose organization IMPACT promotes civic engagement among young people.
Jessica Brown, national field coordinator for the Democratic-leaning grassroots coalition Black Youth Vote, said youths were still engaged.