President Obama dismissed suggestions that young voters who backed him in 2008 were less enthusiastic this election cycle, saying that he believed they wanted to “finish what we started.”

In an interview with local Washington D.C. station WJLA released Sunday, the president predicted young voters would again rally behind his presidency.

“2008, obviously your first time around in some ways it was lightning in a bottle. There were so many young people who just automatically got involved and, you know, we've gone through three and a half tough years. The economy is tough, especially for young people,” Obama acknowledged, according to a transcript of the interview.


But Obama said he was “encouraged” by the number of young voters volunteering for his campaign. “We are still seeing just tons of volunteers getting involved, a lot of passion, a lot of interest. And I think the reason is they understand in some ways this election is more important than 2008,” he said.

“The choice in terms of the direction we want to take the country is very stark this time, so the stakes are big, and I think people want to finish what we started in 2008.”

A Gallup poll released last week showed a lower percentage of young registered voters saying they were enthusiastic about voting this fall compared to 2008.

Fifty-eight percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 29 said they were “definitely likely” to vote, sharply down from the 78 percent who said they were in a survey from October 2008.

Young voters formed a key part of Obama’s base in 2008 and the campaign is counting on a similarly strong turnout to boost them against GOP candidate Mitt Romney in November.

Obama won voters under age 30 by 34 points in 2008 and now holds a 23-point edge over Romney with the demographic, according to Gallup tracking polls.

In the interview, Obama also said that if reelected, he would make comprehensive immigration reform a domestic priority and also devote more energy to pushing forward the Middle East peace process.

“I have not been able to move the peace process forward in the Middle East the way I wanted,” he said of his first term. “It's something we focused on very early. But the truth of the matter is, that the parties, they've got to want it as well,” he added.