Now that we know President Obama will keep his White House address for another four years, the question becomes: will he tackle the issues that young voters told MTV News were most important to them during the election?
After early indications that the huge (45 million) 18-29 voting demographic might drop precipitously from the 2008 numbers goosed by excitement about Obama’s first run, the numbers from four years ago held up. That helped the president hold office, but it also means he has some work to do to keep that vital group in the democrat column.
John Della Volpe, SocialSphere founder and director of polling as an Eisenhower Fellow at Harvard University, said he gives credit to the campaign for turning out the youth vote in the midst of a slow economic recovery that has them worried about paying for college and finding jobs.
“This gives them another chance to really engage in the policy work necessary to tackle some solutions to problems facing millennials,” he said, noting the cost of college and student loans and immigration reform as pressing concerns.
“Immigration reform is something that speaks to who this generation is,” he added. “For the millennial generation it’s not just a Hispanic or Latino issue, but an issue of opportunity and fairness, and this gives him the opportunity to reconnect the White House with this generation.”
Della Volpe said the difficulty the Obama campaign faced in retaining that group of voters should send a message that they are not to be taken for granted. “It’s not about issues where he meets their needs and priorities, but where they can work together,” he said. “There are millions who volunteer in their community and lost faith in waiting because they were not active partners in the first administration … Young people can do much more, and not just every four years, but by being active partners in moving the country forward in ways that have an impact on short-term economic interests and the country’s long-term health.”
On college debt, Della Volpe said sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones, such as trying to link paying for college while tapping into the bottomless energy young people have to serve in their communities. “The idea is to marry the national service movement and in exchange provide grants and scholarship,” he said, comparing the idea to the Clinton administration’s AmeriCorps national service program.
Before Tuesday night’s results, MTV broke down where the president stood on issues ranging from health care and gay marriage to women’s rights, foreign policy and the environment, and how he intends to tackle some of them in his second term:
Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as the first bill of his administration, aimed at helping women fight pay discrimination. He’s also expected to nominate a Supreme Court justice that would protect the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade if one, or more, of the justices were to retire.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) was constitutional. The act ensures that you get to stay on your parents’ health insurance until you’re 26 years old. It also says you can’t be penalized for pre-existing conditions and don’t have to pay a copay for birth control. Thanks to the re-election, Obamacare will stay the law of the land.
Foreign Policy and National Security
In his first term, Obama ended the war in Iraq and slowly decreased the nation’s presence in Afghanistan, where the military is expected to end combat operations at the end of 2014.
The president increased federal aid through Pell Grants during his first term and kept the interest rates on student loans from doubling. Future plans include rewarding schools that keep tuition low, while cutting off federal aid for those that are loading students up with debt. The administration has also set up “Know Before You Owe,” a program that makes it mandatory to tell students how much their education will cost and how much they will owe.
The president supports access to abortion and his Affordable Care Act requires contraceptives to be available for free to women enrolled in workplace health plans.
He supports gay marriage, but is opposed to federal legislation legalizing gay marriage and prefers to have the states work out a solution while stating his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act.