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Younger Voters Present Challenge for Obama 2012

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Younger voters were the foot soldiers for Barack Obama in 2008. Now, the president’s campaign team says they will be his secret weapon for 2012. But while 18-to-29 year-old Americans are reliable Democrats, their enthusiasm for Obama and presidential politics has waned, setting the stage for an uphill struggle to turn out the vote.

Forty-nine percent of millennial voters approve of Obama, according to the Pew Research Center, down 23 points from February 2009.  They are also the least interested in or engaged with the current campaign, the study found.

Only 17 percent of millennials said they are following election news closely, while just 13 percent said they’ve given a lot of thought to the candidates, a 15 point drop from the same period four years ago.

“They’re still very supportive of the president in the head to head match-up in a test race with Mitt Romney,” said Pew researcher Carroll Dougherty. “Very supportive, almost supportive as they were of Obama in 2008.”

“But this enthusiasm gap has got to be worrisome for Democrats because this was Obama’s strongest age group in 2008,” he said. “It looks to be his strongest age group still, but the question is how many actually turn out.”

Making the dynamic even more challenging for Obama is the perception among millennials that Obama will lose his bid for a second term. Thirty-six percent in a poll this month by the Harvard University Institute of Politics said the president would lose while just 30 percent said they thought he’d win.

The Obama campaign has made outreach to younger voters on college campuses a top priority and plans to continue a concerted effort to enlist new volunteers and register first-time voters in the early months of 2012.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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