This week, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart slammed President Obama and his administration for recent scandals that have surfaced. While explaining that the IRS targeted particular groups seeking tax-exemption status with more scrutiny that were conservative and had "political-sounding names," he sounded unforgiving and almost empathetic towards his political nemeses. He quoted a top IRS official on the subject matter, who joked that her math skills were inadequate when asked how many of the groups had "Tea Party" in their name. His attack on Obama's managerial style was interrupted with breaking news of the scandal inflicting the Justice Department, after which he couldn't event muster words to express his disapproval. Stewart's "over-the-top frustration, then sober disappointment" with the administration were clear, according to the Huffington Post.
But what does his skepticism mean, especially for millennials who make up a majority of his viewer base?
Comedy Central and TRU Insights conducted research in the lead-up to the 2012 election that looked at what influences millennials. It found that millennials are quite well-informed and have significant influence when it comes to politics. Millennials are not using political satirical comedy shows to obtain their primary news, but rather watching to further their perspective on such issues. While Jon Stewart has been associated with being the voice for millennials, this indicates his political rants may not have as much sway for his already-educated viewer base.
Resarch from The Pew Charitable Trust highlights that even amongst current struggles, millennials optimism remains notably unscarred. Amanda Marcotte of Slate says "Millennials are more liberal than the generations before, suggesting a shift away from the politics of resentment and toward a politics of gerosity and social support."
The takeaway is that millennials are an engaged, forgiving, and optimistic bunch. Recent polling data by Gallup shows that President Obama's approval ratings this week are at 49%. Of the 49%, millennials make up 58%, and as age increases, approval goes down. Looking back at the average approval rating of a president between Truman and George W. Bush, Obama's current rating is not far from the combined overall average.
Unanticipatedly, election turnout amongst millennials dropped between the 2008 and 2012 elections. However, this seems to be contributed to the lack of trust in government as a whole, not just Obama, affirmed by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.
In order to rebuild trust in government going forward, perhaps Obama should take a cue from millennials, who have grown up in a documented age via the internet, that transparency is key. After all, we are the ones that got him elected twice. While Jon Stewart seems to disapprove of him this week, it will most likely not change millennials' political acumen and overall approval of the president.