In what is projected to be a tight election, the enthusiasm of Obama’s base will be vital to the success of his campaign. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 57 percent of young voters currently approve of Obama, a decrease of 18 percentage points since Obama took office in January 2009, when the figure stood at 75 percent. Analysts and early survey data suggest Obama may face problems rallying his base – particularly young voters – this time around.
Slow economic recovery, high unemployment for young people and African Americans, and high student-loan interest rates may explain the dampened enthusiasm for the president.
Some hip-hop artists have even publicly criticized Obama’s first term. A slightly disillusioned rapper turned mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs said in The Source magazine for February/March 2011, “I love the president like most of us. I just want the president to do better.”
In April 2011, Russell Simmons, founder of hip-hop label Def Jam Records, posted an open letter to Obama on The Huffington Post. He cautioned, “As a passionate advocate of yours since I joined your campaign in 2008, there is something you need to hear: in trying to soar above party politics, you risk forgetting your most important commitment to inclusion and empowerment.”
Of course, it may be too early to say whether the hip-hop community will show up to help Obama for the 2012 election as they did 2008. And key members of the community continue to show support for Obama – including those who have criticized him in the past. Last month, Mr. Simmons told Vibe Magazine, “The President has made tremendous progress on a number of issues from ending the war in Iraq to job creation and Wall Street reform, however there are many of his policies that need time to go into effect and we have a lot more work to do.”