Students and Obama: Is the Love Affair Over?

President Obama’s support and popularity among college students has declined significantly over the past year, according to an Associated Press poll from October. Since May 2009, when 60% of college students approved of the president and only 15% disapproved, his support has plummeted. In the October AP poll, Obama’s numbers stood at 44% approve and 27% disapprove.

Students across the country have begun seriously questioning the 44th president’s performance thus far. Bradley Dolan of the University of Minnesota explained why he voted for Obama in 2008, but subsequently soured on the Democrats. “I have always seen myself as a Democrat, but over the last year and a half, I have had a change of heart. I just want the best for this country, and Obama isn’t our best leader.”

The president’s numbers among Stanford students was certainly quite high in the wake of the election. According to a recent poll from the Review, 57% of Stanford undergraduates consider themselves to be Democrats and 83% indicated that they had voted for Obama in 2008.

Yet the drop-off in support can be seen here as well.

According to Jimmy Ruck ’11, “The excitement for Obama among students seems to have waned.”

Daniel Slate, a recent Stanford alum and former editor-in-chief of the Review, agreed that enthusiasm had leveled off: “I believe this country has become even more embittered and disillusioned with the recognition of false hope and the observation that little of substance has changed, let alone changed for the better.”

A recent article from Real Clear Politics interviewed Damek Spacek, a Stanford doctorate candidate, who self-identifies as a Democrat yet is more open than ever to supporting Republicans due to economic issues.

“Part of that could be a result of the current economic climate,” Spacek said. “Socially, without a doubt, I’m pro-choice. I’m a social Democrat. It’s just hard, given the current economic climate, to stomach higher taxes.”

Another reoccurring theme resulting in discontent appears to be the lack of bipartisanship in Washington.

Slate said, “[Obama’s] overall theme of changing the tone of politics to something more respectful and reasonable, less shrill and made-for-soundbites, was a good intention.”

However since that time, Slate indicated that such beliefs may have been naïve: “I did not know at the time that this has been a promise in many campaigns over the past couple of decades, a time period in which the tone of politics has become increasingly noxious.  That should have given some indication of the likelihood of success.”

Although Obama has worked on a wide spectrum of issues, the economy continues to be a main source of complaint for young voters.  According to the New York Times, jobs offered to college grads were down by 20% from 2008 levels, and this spring they were only up by 5% from 2009 levels.

In addition to being upset over Obama’s performance, many students are simply apathetic to national politics.  Tommy Schultz ’11, president of the Stanford Conservative Society, estimated that only 40% of Stanford students would vote in this year’s elections.

Supporting that assertion, the *Review’s *2010 election poll found that 38% of non-California voters on campus did not know if their state had an election for the US Senate this year.

Although Stanford remains a predominantly blue campus, the number of students questioning loyalty to the Democratic Party grows steadily.  Obama’s once hopeful campaign promises for change now seem lackluster.

As Slate said, “I made a rookie political mistake and put far too much trust in his campaign promises and not enough in past performance, a mistake I will not make again.”

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