Every election cycle, an idiosyncratic sliver of the American voting population is identified as the demographic of the moment. It's the one that supposedly decides the election. It's the one that converts purple states into red or blue. Presidential campaigns spend millions of dollars trying to reach it with messages that, interestingly enough, have all been approved.
All of the it voting blocks of the past 12 years have been parents. The soccer mom. The NASCAR dad. The Walmart mom. (The South Park Republican is the only coveted voter I could find that hadn’t procreated.) The must-have voting block of the 2012 election has yet to be identified. But I know exactly who it is, and mark my words, he will carry the election in November. He is the Go-Gurt Dad.
Four years ago, President Obama carried the youth vote by a staggering margin. (Youth vote is any registered voter under 29 years old.) Sixty-eight percent of the youth vote went to Obama in 2008, the largest percentage since exit polls were established in 1972. The youth vote was largely made up of first time voters, college students and post-grads new to the work force. They were optimistic, fresh-faced 18-year-olds; 21-year-olds who volunteered at the Obama booth at their neighborhood block party; 24-year-olds with bachelor degrees in political science and $65,000 of college debt. For them, hope and change sounded like a pretty awesome idea.
Fast forward to the fall of 2012, and the landscape has changed. Those voters are four years older. Eighteen-year-olds became post-collegiates with serious college debt. But the biggest change is that the 21- and 24-year-olds are now 25- and 28-year-olds. Obama’s youth vote grew up. They found themselves in serious relationships, got married and had their first babies. Suddenly, life got very serious for them: They’re now responsible for someone other than themselves. They need jobs with health insurance to cover the delivery and pediatrician visits. They need money for diapers and car seats and day care and Go-Gurt. It costs $234,900 to raise a child to 17, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that skillet-to-the-face reality has affected the way these guys are going to vote.
Here’s the proof: 68 percent of today’s undecided youth voters voted for Obama in 2008, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Translation: More than two-thirds of Obama’s youth vote doesn’t know how they will cast their ballots in November. And here’s another eye opener: At the end of August, a Zogby poll found that Mitt Romney has 40 percent of the youth vote, much better than the 26 percent Senator John McCain got in 2008.
There’s a reason I’m not talking about the Go-Gurt Mom. Yes it’s true, women have historically made up a larger portion of the voting public. But that has started to shift. In 2010, young females voted at a similar rate as their male counterparts, according to CIRCLE. In 2008, there was an 8-point voter turnout gap between young men and women. In 2010, that shrunk to a 1-point gap.
Here we are, 40 days away from November 6, and the Go-Gurt Dad is having his moment. Can you picture him? He is wearing a Baby Bjorn, and carrying the camouflage diaper bag he bought for himself. He is a whiz at changing diapers. He has taken the baby for her vaccination shots. He inspects strollers like he inspects cars. He wakes up for midnight feedings. The Go-Gurt Dad is the newest generation of fathers, the latest in parenting technology. He is energetic, dedicated, and deeply involved in his child’s life. And he will decide the 2012 presidential election.
Gentlemen, start your approved messages.