December 26 2013
How can President Barack Obama regain his rock-star status with the Millennial generation? That's a question that weighs heavily on the White House after a poll released this month shows that Millennials are turning on Obama.
Here's an idea that I bet isn't getting much play in the West Wing: How about in 2014, the President start treating Millennials like adults instead of adult children? Even better, he could support policies that will enable more Millennials to lead adult lives by getting jobs and becoming financially independent.
Millennials are becoming a tougher sell for the President. According to a national poll of 18-to-29-year-olds conducted by Harvard's Institute of Politics, the President now has the lowest job approval rating, 41 percent, among this group since he took office. And 47 percent of those in this age cohort would recall the President if that were possible.
The President's personal popularity and job approval haven't just suffered -- a majority, 57 percent, of 18-to-29-year-olds disapprove of ObamaCare, the President's signature legislative achievement. Less than three out of 10 of uninsured Millennials said they would definitely or probably enroll in insurance through an exchange when they are eligible. By more than a two to one margin, Millennials believe that the quality of their care will get worse under ObamaCare and 51 percent believe their cost of care will increase.
This isn't just a major political problem. It has serious policy implications. The Obama Administration needs young people to sign up--in fact, according to a White House briefing this summer, almost 40 percent of the seven million people they hope will enroll in the first year must be between the ages of 18 and 35 for the marketplace exchanges to work.
What is the Administration's response to studies, reports and polls showing the lack of enrollment of Millennials and their declining support for the law? More and more marketing efforts and ad campaigns.
The Obama Administration has convened a meeting of celebrities, reached out to the NFL, held wine-and-cheese parties for moms and even produced a "Health Care for the Holidays" website targeting parents to try to convince them to sell ObamaCare to their kids during the holidays.
The President's team is putting on a full-court press to try to get young people to sign up for ObamaCare and doing it in a way that treats these young adults like simple-minded children.
Take the latest marketing move that's making headlines: Pajama Boy.
The President's Organizing for Action tweeted out a picture of a young man in a red and green checkered pajama onesie holding hot chocolate with the message, "Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance."
This is how the Administration views young people -- as perpetual children. To the Administration, young people are sitting around in onesie pajamas in their parents' basement just waiting for their parents to explain to them how the world works.
Sadly, Pajama Boy is the world the President is creating for too many Millennials. Millions of young adults are living at home because they can't find jobs. According to Generation Opportunity, the effective unemployment rate, which is adjusted to include those who have quit looking for work, for 18- to-29-year-olds is 15.9 percent for November 2013. With ObamaCare discouraging the creation of full-time jobs, it seems unlikely that many of those currently honing their Xbox skills will be starting their careers anytime soon. ObamaCare also pushes Millennials health care costs up by shifting costs onto younger, healthier enrollees. And then there are Social Security costs, Medicare costs and student loans.
But sitting around in pajamas is not what young people want, which I suspect is why the President is losing the support of young people. Obama's 2013 message to young people hasn't been about working hard, taking on more responsibility and becoming independent. Instead, Obama's message is simple -- never grow up; let us take care of you. This message isn't resonating. To win over young people in 2014, the Obama Administration should rethink how it can implement policies that actually lead to more job opportunities so that Millennials can get out of their pjs and make their mark on the world.