By Liz Paquette
“It’s important to start early, these politicians make choices that are very important to things that affect everyone’s lives, and the earlier that someone can learn about the issues and be involved, all the better,” said Matthew Pappas, citizenship education teacher.
Soon after high schoolers graduate, we are thrown into the real world and have to deal with serious issues. Some students will be 18 by November 8th, 2016 and will be able to vote in the presidential primary. They’ve been taught that voting is very important to society, but how does one decide on which candidate to vote for?
Young voters are very important to elections, and can often influence the result of elections. 46 million young people ages 18-29 years old are eligible to vote, and the same age group makes up 21% of the voting eligible population in the United States. In 2012 in New Hampshire, 55.6% of young voters participated in the presidential election.
Destinee Magnusson (‘16) who will be 18 for the next election says, “I’m not planning on voting. I don’t really know who I would vote for,” she explained, “I think that people should vote but I just don’t feel that I’m educated enough to make a good decision. I don’t do any research on the candidates and I’m not a very political person.”
Lots of kids are in this situation. They are bombarded with campaign ads on a daily basis and they don’t know who would actually be a good or bad candidate. And you don’t have to be political to vote.
The future president’s decisions will most likely affect your life in some way, whether it be new taxes that affect you, or free college tuition. If you want to prevent new taxes or try to get free college tuition, you should do research and vote for the candidate that supports the same ideas you do.
Alexa Swanson (‘16) will also be old enough to vote, and has an idea of who she’d like to vote for. “I like to be very involved in politics,” she explains. “I pay attention to the news, and after I hear something from the candidate or some newscaster I go look it up on their website.”
This is a fantastic place to start doing research. If you google a candidate’s name, one of the first few results will be their own campagn website, such as Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, that will usually include their name and say “official campaign website of…” These websites offer some of the candidate’s opinions on burning topics, along with volunteer opportunities, merchandise, etc.
“I believe the debates help give me more info on the candidates. It makes them explain in depths about their plans” added Swanson, “ I also watch Fox News and CNN to learn more about candidates in current events.”
Watching the debates can be a good way to learn more about the candidate’s beliefs. They will often be asked questions that make them explain how they’re going to do accomplish their goals, like lower the debt or reduce the cost of college. “I watch the debates on TV to learn more about the candidates. I don’t really go online,” said Brie Rybinski (’18). “I get to see the different points of view of all the people running for president.”
There has been a lot of drama during the most recent debates, so some believe that debates are no longer helpful when deciding on a candidate, but rather for entertainment. Evan Poworoznek (‘16) says, “My parents, who are professors, [taught me] that what candidates say in debates isn’t necessarily what they believe, it’s just what they think will get them votes, and for me it’s just funny to see what they want to say.”
It’s also possible that the candidates are not truthful in the debates. “Usually politicians in the debates are truthful but this year there are a lot of lies being thrown around and people haven’t been called out for them,” explained Pappas. “But if anything it shows you their personality, and what they’re going to be like in front of a microphone if they ever do become president.”
Poworoznek will be 18 for the general election, and has an idea for who he will vote for. “I get my news from lots of places,” he explained, “I really like Reuter’s political opinion website, also I get random economic policy information from CNBC, and then just generally I look at New York Times and The Washington Post.”
It can be hard to find sites that are trustworthy, and have no bias. Sometimes finding a secondary site that compiles the best information from all the leading sources is the best way to find out information. “Theres a great website called Real Clear Politics and it’s sort of a clearing house,” described Pappas, “They’ll put a ton of stuff on their website. They’ll have every poll that’s out in every state for every race and they have articles from all the major newspapers and magazines so it’s a great resource to go to.”
Keeping up with the news and what the candidates are doing is important. They usually offer their opinions on big current events and share what they’d do if they were dealing with that situation. Choosing a news source that is trusted and unbiased is very important for getting information, and any of the previously listed sources are great for keeping up with the news.
Personally, the way I get to learn more about candidates is political surveys. Project Vote Smart is a fairly short survey that shows you your best match for a candidate. You answer a few questions on broad topics, and your answers are matched up with the inferred answers of the candidates, based on research. After answering all the questions, or most of them, your best match is evident. By clicking on the candidate, you can view their public record, their voting record (if they have one), transcripts of their speeches and their general positions on a wide range of topics.
Another potentially helpful political quiz was ISideWith.com. This survey is way more in depth, and gives the user more background informaton on each issue. There are more questions that also cover a wide range of topics but are very specific. This quiz matches you with a candidate, and also tells you which party you agree with most, your ideology, and more.
Voting is very important and it actually does make a difference. Not everyone has to vote, but if you choose to, make sure to be educated. Learn about the topics and candidates that you will have to vote on for the next election. Do a lot of research to make the right choice in the voting booth — if you make the wrong choice it might just hurt you in the future!