That’s allowed, and there's little Antani can do about it. But sometimes Antani spots the campaign talking up students in other outdoor spots without a campus permit. “If that happens,” he said, “I report it.”
Or they’ll solicit students in the student union, off-limits unless the group rents a table. ”I report it every time.”
Once, they e-mailed professors and asked to be allowed to speak in front of their lectures and register students in class. “I was furious,” Antani said. “I talked to the provost about that.”
The campaign says it abides by campus rules — but touts an organization on college campuses that is even more robust than that developed in 2008, when backing Barack Obama was cool. And the reasons for that intense effort are clear.
Polls show that support for President Obama among voters age 18 to 29 remains strong. But they’ve also persistently shown that young voters are less excited and less likely to vote than their elders.
A new study from the Institute of Politics at Harvard University shows Obama leading Mitt Romney by 19 percentage points, 55 to 36. That represents a fall-off from 2008, when the president won young voters by 34 points — 66 percent to 32 percent — over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Tight contests in Ohio and elsewhere could hinge on the question of whether the campaign can turn sometimes disengaged young supporters into voters.
A Pew Research Center poll from September found that half as many voters age 18 to 30 said they were closely following political news this year than in 2008, and only 63 percent said they were certain to vote, down from 72 percent four years ago. Only half of adults under 30 said they were certain they were registered.
The results were “startling” said William Galston, a Brookings Institution fellow who has studied youth engagement for years. “All of the signs point in the same direction. And the only question is how far down they go,” he said.
Campaign officials reject the disengagement argument. Last month, they announced that volunteers and workers had registered 10,000 Ohio students in just one week. And they say more than half of newly registered voters in this key battleground state are under the age of 30, numbers that match figures in other swing states.
“How we measure support is what we’re seeing on the ground,” said Clo Ewing, an Obama campaign spokeswoman. “And what we’re seeing is enthusiasm. What we’re seeing is people wanting to get involved.”