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Youth vote not as fired up as in 2008. Could that trip up Obama?

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Obama, when he spoke, emphasized his main themes of jobs and help for the middle class, but also touched on issues important to many college students, such as student financial aid and the Obamacare provision that would allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they’re 26 years old.

At one point, he reminded the crowd of Romney’s remarks that students who can’t afford college should borrow money from their parents.

When the crowd booed his mentions of Romney, Obama interjected, “Don’t boo, vote!”

At another point, he told his audience that “protectors of the status quo” are “counting on you not voting.”

But Obama has some good reason to fear just that. A series of polls this fall have led to concerns that youths, this time around, are less engaged.

A Pew poll at the end of September found that just half of young people were even sure they were registered (compared with 61 percent at the same time in 2008), and just 63 percent said they definitely planned to vote, down from 72 percent four years ago.

While those numbers are not particularly shocking, given the significant degree to which young people have felt the burden of the sluggish economy and joblessness, they garnered a lot of attention.

But Mr. Keeter of Pew says they also tell only part of the story.

In subsequent polls, the portion of young people who say they definitely plan to vote has climbed to 75 percent, and the number who say they’re registered is up to 59 percent – still behind where it was at the same point in 2008, but by a narrower margin.

“Youth engagement is probably going to be down a little bit from where it was four years ago, but I don’t think that it’s a certainty at this point, and mobilization makes a huge amount of difference with this population,” says Keeter.

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