Some college students have broken up with their former crush, President Barack Obama, and they want their peers to follow suit.
That's the message of a political ad released last week by the College Republican National Committee. The satirical spot called "The Break Up" is running near college campuses in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida and has gotten more than 50,000 views on YouTube as of Tuesday morning. Click play below to watch the video:
The College Republicans spent $9,700 on the commercial, the first television ad buy in the group's history, apparently sensing an opportunity to attract young voters to the GOP in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections. The College Republicans think -- and some polling data agrees -- that young voters will join the Republicans this November after turning out in record numbers for Democrats in 2008, when Democrats won 66 percent of the youth vote.
The ad invites viewers to the College Republicans' new website, Ourtab.org, which aims to educate young voters on the government's spending habits.
"Ourtab.org is a debt awareness initiative," said Rob Lockwood, director of communications for the College Republican National Committee. "The goal of it is to really just paint a picture of what deficits and government spending look like -- wasteful government spending more specifically."
Lockwood said some young voters are responding to the message because they are concerned about finding jobs and paying down debt in harsh economic times. In the last four weeks, a team of 25 field representatives for the College Republicans has recruited another 20,000 college students to the cause, Lockwood said.
Michael Worley, a spokesman for the College Democrats of America, dismissed the idea that Democratic support among college students is waning.
"While the College Republicans are putting a music video on TV, College Democrats have been active for months organizing on campuses in support of Democrats up and down the ballot," Worley said. "On our campuses, students remain engaged and energized and continue to work to help elect Democrats to all levels of government."
But polling data does indicate a slight shift to the right among millennials, according to Scott Keeter, the director of survey research at the Pew Research Center. While most young people across the country still identify themselves as Democrats, the gap between the two parties has shrunk.
In July 2008, 62 percent of millennials contacted by Pew considered themselves Democrats. According to data collected by Pew through June 2010, that number has fallen to 57 percent. The percentage of millennials identifying themselves as Republicans has grown from 30 percent in July 2008 to 35 percent in the most recent Pew data.
This trend has led President Obama and other Democrats to visit college campuses this week in an attempt to regain momentum among millennials.
But experts say the change in the polls does not reflect a great ideological shift among the nation's youth. The Democrats' numbers have gone down among all demographic groups in the last two years.
"This is an across the board decline in the popularity of Obama and the Democratic Party since their high point in 2008 and early 2009," said Isaac Wood, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
While Democratic positions still resonate more with young voters on most issues, millennials are disillusioned on one, all-important factor: the economy.
"It's the number one and in many respects it's the only issue," Keeter said. Young people "are passing a fairly negative judgment on the people in power today who don't seem to be able to get any traction on dealing with the economy."
And the most damaging trend for Democrats this November might be voter apathy. Youth political participation and turnout was at an all time high in 2008, according to Peter Levine, the director of CIRCLE, a Tufts University group that conducts research on the political involvement of young Americans. With a much lower turnout expected, especially among young liberals, the Democrats could lose one of their major electoral strengths.
"Democrats should still win the youth vote," Wood said. "The problem is it won't provide as big of a margin because there will be fewer youth voters at the polls."
Whatever the cause, the College Republicans are energized by polling gains. With the new ad and website in place, Lockwood issued a bold, if not unrealistic, goal:
"Ronald Reagan won the youth vote, and George H. W Bush won the youth vote. I think we're going to get it again."
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