Ball Bearings sits down with four individuals to discuss issues, candidates, and considerations in the 2016 election.
Millennials have the potential to reshape the way people look at politics. For politicians relying on this generation’s support, the question is: what it will it take to get young voters to the polls? According to a Pew Research study, Millennials were a huge part of the election of Barack Obama. In 2008, Obama won 66 percent of votes from 18 to 29-year-olds and in 2012 he won 60 percent.
Millennials will continue to have an important role in the 2016 election, but only if they vote. Candidates can encourage voter turnout by addressing issues that are important to their constituents. The discussion about what issues are most significant to young voters and who they will vote for is especially keen as an election nears.
Ball Bearings sat down with Dr. Brandon Waite, a political science professor; Gina Iacobucci, a Bible study leader; Jack Hesser, President of Student Government Association; and Alejandro Corpus, a first generation American, to discuss what issues matter to them in the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
Ball Bearings: What issues do you associate with the Republican/Democrat platforms?
Waite: Pro-life and Second Amendment rights are issues owned by Republicans. Gun control and pro-choice legislation tend to be more owned by Democrats. Not every issue is owned by a party, but several are.
Iacobucci: I think that for Republicans the hot topics are the economy, immigration, and foreign policy. For the Democrats I think it is more social issues. I think they focus on protecting certain groups from being oppressed such as African Americans or gays and lesbians.
Hesser: I think that a lot of times we see Democrats focus on social issues. Generally we see democratic candidates being progressive. I think that the democratic party really tries to market themselves as the party of equality and the party of this kind of bright utopian future. The conservative side really pushes a very strong economic plan.
Corpus: Republicans and Democrats, I think the underlying issues deal with immigration. They tend to push the things that are going to stick negatively with people’s minds. They tend to not show a lot of light on the positive things that immigration can do. Same issue with gun control.
BB: Do you vote? What motivates you to vote?
Waite: I do vote. I am a LOTE voter- A Lesser of Two Evils. I am a LOTE voter because I understand that while I don’t have perfect policy agreement with any of the candidates, one of the candidates will be in more agreement with my personal beliefs than the other. Even if it is not a perfect match.
Iacobucci: Yes, I feel like as a citizen you are expected to. I know that what I do matters and how I vote ultimately matters. If everyone thought that they are just one person and it doesn’t matter, then nobody would do it. And then it wouldn’t really matter that we have voting.
Hesser: Absolutely I vote. I think that it’s so important for everyone who is able to vote to have the opportunity to express their opinions on who they think should be leading this country. Your vote is so incredibly important.
Corpus: Technically I do not vote, partially because I just became a citizen. I am a first generation American citizen. I haven’t had the chance to explore that part of my life, but I am now a registered voter and I do plan on voting in this upcoming election.
BB: Why do some people not vote?
Waite: Some people don’t vote because they are apathetic and they just don’t care. Part of that apathy is that they are uninformed. It is hard to care about something that you don’t even know about. Other people know a lot about it, but they have difficulty voting. In the United States, we don’t have a national holiday for election day. This means people will have to leave school or they have to leave work.
Iacobucci: Some people think that they don’t know enough to vote. People don’t feel like they are informed on the issues, so they don’t think that they can have an opinion. Another reason may be that people think that they are just one person and that their opinion doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. I also think that some people think of it as a hassle.
Hesser: Many individuals don’t vote because they feel as though their individual vote doesn’t make a difference. In addition, I think that there is a lot of distrust with the establishment. They doubt that one vote is going to make a real difference. I think that comes from a lack of education. It is a lack of understanding who is running, what the issues are, and what their vote would mean.
Corpus: I think that some people just forget. This country is so big, we don’t think about what one person has to say and I think that is the wrong mentality. At times that hinders people from going out and making the effort to do it.
BB: Do you think Millennial voters are as active as their parents and grandparents?
Waite: We know they are not. We know that as you get older, you increase your rate of participation. Even though Millennial voters don’t turn out very much today, my hope is that as they get older, as they get home mortgages, take out loans, and get married that the issues of life finally settle in and start to impact them that they increase their frequency of voting over time.
Iacobucci: I don’t think that they are as active with voting, but I think that they are active in political issues. With social media, we have more access to information, more ways to spread our opinions, and to learn about things.
Hesser: Statistically no, but I think that the Millennials share the same drive and passion as other generations have. I think a big difference is that with past generations we saw that passion translate into their vote. We haven’t seen that same trend. We still see all that crazy passion, but it doesn’t translate to the votes.
Corpus: I haven’t lived here that long, so I really couldn’t tell you. I was raised with parents who are first generation college grads from Mexico. They probably had to face issues that American parents had to. But as for myself, a Millennial hispanic, it is important to me to be active.
BB: What issues effectively motivate people to vote?
Waite:It depends on the person. Some people are single person voters; for others it is not about the issues it is about the ideology; for many it is about the partisanship of the candidates regardless of their issues. I just depends from voter to voter.
Iacobucci: I think issues that directly have to do with them. I am an education major and I am more interested in the educational policy. So I think it all depends on what is relevant to your life.
Hesser: When an individual feels what is at stake will personally affect them, they go and vote. I think that in times of crises and times where our nation is really struggling is also when we see higher voter turnouts. It is people wanting to voice their opinions and make a statement through their votes.
Corpus: I think drastic issues. What I mean by this is things that are radical issues. Gun control and immigration are two things that people are really adamant about. It has been so stagnant and regular that now as people are bringing it up, they want to see a change. So I think that being the people that can potentially change that gets people to go out there and vote.
BB: How have the needs of Millennials changed the role of politics?
Waite: I don’t know if they have. I don’t know if the needs of Millennials are any different than the needs of anybody else. People want to feel secure, so national security is important. People want jobs. So issues dealing with immigration and with the economy are big for everybody, including Millennials that are now in college and are going to be joining the job market.
Iacobucci: Our generation is so large that candidates have to start focusing on issues that have to deal with us and that we would be interested in. Candidates want our votes, so I think it is changing the things that they are talking about. Candidates are using social media to communicate with us. This overall is changing the way they market themselves.
Hesser: As far as personal needs are concerned, we have really upped the ante as far as social media presence. There are a lot of candidates who, for whatever reason, aren’t even a blip on social media and that can really make or break them. You see a lot of struggles with candidates who don’t have strong social media presences. At a college level, you don’t really hear about them.
Corpus: I think that it is not so much what they are saying that is getting our generation attention, but more how they are saying it. You see candidates going on talk shows, SNL, late night television, and all these different avenues. I think that we relate to that a little better and are more inclined to listen to what they have to say.
BB: What do you think about how this year’s candidates are pitching themselves to Millennials?
Waite: I think that candidates do have a tough time talking to Millennials. Democrats usually have an easier time talking to Millennials mainly because younger people tend to be more liberal. Republicans want to return to a better time, a time in the past, before all these problems of today. That makes it harder for conservatives to talk about the future which is what Millennials are interested in. Some candidates do a better job than others. You almost never hear Donald Trump talk about a brighter future. All he talks about are all the problems. Marco Rubio does a much better job of talking about the future. I think because of that, Marco Rubio has an easier time talking to Millennial voters than Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and others in the party.
Iacobucci: Through social media – Twitter, Facebook, etc. They are using the media in a way that will reach us more. I think this is ultimately good. Millennials can be more educated because they have easier access to that information.
Hesser: Millennials are a huge untapped voter network for all candidates. I think all the candidates understand how much of an impact Millennials have, potentially. I add the word potentially because it affects them whether or not they vote. Barack Obama had huge successes, in 2008, by getting a huge turnout for Millennials and that really made the difference in his election. Candidates since then have been trying to replicate that through social media.
Corpus: Candidates are using social media to reach out to Millennials and I tend to not take it too seriously. I feel that what they have to say should be on a platform that is very serious. Especially if you are running for something that has such an impact on people’s lives. I tend to focus on their specific websites because I feel like that is where the information is completely unaltered.
BB: How do you feel about the strength of our economy? What do you think the president’s role should be in directing the economy?
Waite: By any objectionable measure, our economy is stronger today than it was when Obama took office. Presidents have very little control over the economy. They can pass some policies that affect the economy around the edges, but presidents can not wave a magic wand and end up with a better economy.
Iacobucci: I am not really up to date on economic policy. What I do know is that debt is a problem. I think that coming from a person that doesn’t know a lot about this, the government shouldn’t be as involved in economics as they maybe they are.
Hesser: I think it is really important to look at how Congress and the president work together with the economy. When we look at the budget, for example, that fact that we are overspending at such an incredible rate really needs to be addressed. That isn’t something that the president necessarily controls. Congress is focusing on making a budget that is going to make sense to the American people and that the relationship between the president and Congress puts the economy as one of its top priorities.
Corpus: I think there is an issue with creating American made jobs. I think that the past couple presidents have made an attempt, but not necessarily succeeded. I think the president’s role should be to get out us out of the national debt and create more jobs that will better the economy.
BB: Polls have shown that the environment, criminal justice, health care, date security, education, and religion are big issues in the upcoming election. Out of all of these, what concerns you the most?
Waite: The environment because it affects all of us equally. These are public goods and or collective goods: clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. But I am not so much a single issue voter as a multi-issue voter. I care about the economy, social policies, national security policy, and foreign policy. I am a much more broad-oriented voter.
Iacobucci: Education because that is what I am majoring in. There is such a push to adhere to the standards and what they are saying we have to teach. So I will definitely be paying more attention this issue in the future.
Hesser: I think that the environment is incredibly important. I was a natural resources minor so obviously it kind of plays a special role. For me, the environment is a huge reason to go out to the polls. There is so much that we need to do to be back on the right track as far as taking care of our planet. I feel like if we are trying to create a world that is truly better for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, that we need to take a step back and figure out what we are going to do about this planet.
Corpus: For me, primarily it is immigration. Being a legal immigrant, I take full advantage of being a legal immigrant. I hope that the media and everything that has been surrounded by this issue doesn’t take away what so many immigrants have worked for. I look forward to seeing what candidates are saying about this issue.
BB: Do you identify with a major party and why? Who is your favorite candidate?
Waite: I do identify with one party or the other. I do typically cast votes for that party. The reason I do so is because that party is typically closer aligned with my own beliefs than the other party. But as a professor of political science, I don’t get in the habit of telling students which party I support or which candidates I support. The reason being is that I try to maintain as objective of a posture in front of the class as possible so I don’t alienate students.
Iacobucci: I identify with the conservative party. I think it is mostly because of my parents. I also think that I have learned enough about it to form my own opinions. On certain issues, I see more to the liberal perspective. I really like Ben Carson, but I don’t know if he would make a good president. I also really like Marco Rubio.
Hesser: Generally, I identify more with the democratic party, but on some level policies I am much more conservative. I think overall I would identify as a Democrat. I think the candidate that I am most inclined toward would be Hillary Clinton.
Corpus: I identify myself as a conservative. My favorite candidate, in terms of what they’ve had to say so far, is Jeb Bush. He seems to be the most cool, level-headed person in the nominations.