Are the youth of America abandoning President Obama? Some conservative commentators are pushing that narrative, citing a "new poll" from the voter outreach group Generation Opportunity showing that just 31 percent of young voters approve of Obama's handling of the economy. That "new poll," however, is actually almost a year old, and Generation Opportunity -- which has ties to the GOP -- has spent the better part of that year promoting its results to anyone who will listen.
Yesterday morning, the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard wrote about Generation Opportunity's "new poll" and how it shows that "only 31 percent approve of Obama's handling of youth unemployment, a number that threatens to rob him of the voter group that pushed him to victory." Bedard quoted Generation Opportunity president Paul Conway saying that his group's poll demonstrates "the hardcore reality is that young voters are now very dissatisfied with the direction of the country." Bedard's column was hyped by Rush Limbaugh, who said it shows that Obama "is in the tank. They are having to go back to old pages in the playbook from years ago to try to revive this presidency."
Bedard said the poll had been "provided" to him by Generation Opportunity and reproduced some of its results:
Some 56 percent believe the leadership is wrong in Washington, 69 percent say political leaders do not reflect their interests, 54 percent say the country is on the wrong track and three quarters want federal spending cut.
Consider: a whopping 77 percent say that they are delaying life changes due to economic woes. Of those:
-- 44 percent are delaying buying a home.
-- 28 percent are delaying saving for retirement.
-- 23 percent are delaying starting a family.
-- 18 percent will wait to get married.
Those results are identical to the numbers included in Generation Opportunity's June 2011 press release promoting a "new poll conducted by the polling company Inc./WomanTrend:"
77% either have or will delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors (44% delay buying a home, 28% delay saving for retirement, 27% delay paying off student loans or other debt. 27% delay going back to school/getting more education or training; 26% delay changing jobs/cities. 23% delay starting a family; 18% say delay getting married)
76% would like to see federal spending reduced
69% said the federal government, not others, should make sacrifices right now
69% say the current leadership in Washington fails to serve the younger generation
Just 31% of 18 - 29 year olds approve of the President's handling of youth unemployment
That poll, according to the press release, was conducted April 16-22, 2011. The polling company, inc./WomanTrend is run by Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who recently joined Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign as a senior advisor.
Since June, Generation Opportunity has blasted out press release after press release promoting this same poll, fitting its increasingly outdated results to a diverse array of national news stories: the debt ceiling fight, the State of the Union address, and, most recently, Chinese vice president Xi Jinping's visit to the United States.
Media Matters emailed Generation Opportunity asking for clarification, but didn't hear back.
The Center For Public Integrity dug into Generation Opportunity's background and discovered a "mysterious" organization that "critics say is masquerading as a popular 'nonpartisan' movement when it is in fact an effort to attract young people to a conservative ideology." Paul Conway, the group's president, lists on his resume stints with the Bush Labor Department and the Heritage Foundation. Senior vice president for communications Matthew Faraci also worked for Labor under Bush, as well as former Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) and Americans United For Life.
The blog Future Majority found that Generation Opportunity's claim to legitimacy -- "a total fan base of more than two million" on Facebook, according to their latest press release -- is based on trickery. In 2010, before the group had actually launched, Generation Opportunity set up a Facebook page called simply "Being American" and encouraged Facebook users to "like" the page, but did not identify that they were behind it. As Future Majority explained it: "Anyone who has liked 'Being American' on Facebook because they like being American is unwillingly being counted as a supporter of this organization, and Generation Opportunity is using these people as 'evidence' that they are legitimate and 'one of the largest and fastest growing organizations targeting young Americans.' This is astroturfing 2.0."
According to the Center For Public Integrity, the group defies all transparency: "Its address is a post office box in Arlington. It claims to be a nonprofit, but does not list its board members or funders. Its website is registered to a company that keeps site operators' identities' secret."
UPDATE: After Media Matters posted this item and sought comment from Bedard, he posted an update to his piece from yesterday:
Updated Friday 3:21 p.m.
The Generation Opportunity poll is from last April, though the group says the numbers remain the same and are the basis for Conway's quotes.
It's unclear how Generation Opportunity can say "the numbers remain the same" when they haven't conducted a new poll.