WASHINGTON — If Democrats are counting on young and minority voters to keep them in power in next month's elections, the under-30 audience at a nationally televised youth forum Thursday showed President Obama that they're feeling dissatisfied, too.
Over the course of the hour-long event hosted by Viacom networks MTV, BET and CMT, Obama took one critical question after another from among the 225 young men and women in the studio audience and thousands more sending their thoughts via Twitter.
A young Republican woman from Austin, in the audience, kicked things off, saying she had "very much respected" his pledge in his 2008 campaign for more bipartisanship but "to be frank, when all was said and done, I don't think that actually happened." A young man from Mississippi thought Obama was too soft on illegal immigration.
A young man from Washington said despite the bailouts and stimulus, unemployment's still above 9 percent and college graduates can't find work.
"Why should we still support you going forward with your monetary and economic policies, and if the economy does not improve over the next two years, why should we vote you back in?"
Viewers were asked to send in via Twitter their greatest hopes or fears. Two messages were read aloud to the president: "My greatest fear is that we are turning into a Communist country" and "My greatest fear is that Obama will be re-elected."
Obama mostly took it all in stride, although the criticism got under his skin a couple of times. He said his administration's policies didn't cause the recession and had staved off a second Great Depression. He also said that "taxes aren't higher" than they were when he took office.
Not everyone had an ax to grind.
Some just wanted to tell Obama about their experiences, including a young woman awaiting her green card and victims of Internet bullying, domestic violence and poor schools.
Others wanted to know more about his feelings.
Does he think sexual identity is a choice? "I don't think it's a choice," Obama said. "I think people are born with a certain makeup and that we're all children of God."