The last four years have not been without hardship for many students. With student loan debt at an estimated $1 trillion—an average of $26,000 for the two-thirds of recent college graduates who had to borrow—and a still-recovering job market, some suggested that Millennial voters would be jaded enough with the current state of the economy to swing the recent presidential election.
Exit polling shows that they did—but not in the favor of challenger Mitt Romney. Rather, young voters showed overwhelming support once again for President Obama and were instrumental to his winning a second term in office.
Voters aged 18-29 years old made up 19 percent of the total electorate this year—up a full percentage point from 2008—and 60 percent voted for Obama. Though this percentage was down from four years ago, it was still enough to secure his re-election.
Part of that support might stem from the perception that the economy is finally improving. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates has fallen to 6.8 percent, with 200,000 jobs added during the recent recession, along with another 2 million in the subsequent recovery. This, coupled with the fact that most voters still blame former President Bush’s policies for the recession, has led to a feeling that Obama is leading the economy in the right direction.
Additionally, the president has taken other steps that have earned the support of student voters. He has expanded Pell Grants that allow lower-income students to pay for college and established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which assists borrowers with student loan complaints. Students have also applauded his decision to allow undocumented youth to avoid deportation in order to work or go to school.
It could also be that young voters care about more than just the economy. Most Millennial voters favor legalized abortion, access to contraception, and LGBT rights—all beliefs shared by the president. Young people also benefited from one of his key accomplishments, the Affordable Care Act, which enabled them to remain covered by their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
And maybe young voters just want to be appreciated. In an election that saw some conservatives endlessly credit wealthy “job creators” as the foundation of any potential economic recovery, President Obama made sure to acknowledge the role that youth played, both in his campaign and in the future of this country. In a video posted to his YouTube channel, the president tearfully told a group of young campaign workers: “I’m really proud of all of you.”
Young voters believe in a president who believes in them.