Just shy of six weeks from Election Day, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are both seeking to illustrate where they stand on the issues, especially those which have the broadest appeal to the electorate.
“Generally there are key issues students or younger voters are usually interested in. Education funding is always a big one, key social issues— but in this particular election with traditional issues so important, I would imagine that young voters are just as concerned as older voters with the main issues, which are the economy, employment opportunities when they graduate (and) debt-related issues,” said Justin Vaughn, Ph.D. assistant professor in the department of political science. “Those primary issues are at the forefront of everybody’s mind.”
The students in Vaughn’s class care about a variety of issues, a significant one being healthcare, and whether the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will be overturned, repealed by Republicans or if it will be something they can count on. Other points of contention include the war in Afghanistan, whether and how fast to pull the troops out, and immigration, a matter increasingly important to Idaho with the growth of the Latino community.
With such a multitude of issues of interest to students, a website Vaughn recommends for those who desire to become better informed or to verify a claim a candidate has made, is factcheck.org, a “nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics,” according to their website.
“Because our political press is both so commercial and so partisan, I would suggest looking at alternative sources of information,” Vaughn said. “The BBC’s coverage of American politics is far better than anything you’re going to find on television in the United States.”
Although, the national media coverage focuses on the Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency, it is important to note other candidates are playing a role in the outcome of the election. Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, has been named the Libertarian nominee for president and is currently set to appear on the ballot in 47 states, including Idaho. Ron Paul will likely play a role as a write-in candidate.
Geneva Hornecker, a philosophy major in her senior year, believes that in a two party system it will always be “picking the lesser of two evils.”
Although she would like to see more parties, Hornecker recognizes it is not feasible. An issue she finds critical are women’s issues, which she believes are better addressed by the Democratic party. She also takes issue with a video that emerged last week of Romney discussing his belief that many Obama voters like to be dependent on the government. Hornecker was in a situation where for a short time she had to depend on the government, and that assistance was a life-saver.
“I needed help getting back up on my feet. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Hornecker said.
Another issue important to many students on campus is healthcare reform, and although it is a vital issue, it is one difficult to yet fully understand.
“The Obama campaign doesn’t talk a lot about the complex, confusing parts of it. Instead they talk about the small, discrete, popular things like getting rid of the preexisting condition discrimination and allowing young Americans to stay on their parents’ insurance for longer. Those are important things, but they are also very minor components of the package,” Vaughn said.
A critical aspect of any election is being able to differentiate the stances each candidate holds. An area where this holds particularly true is tax reform.
“Romney’s telling people Obama’s going to raise your taxes. Obama’s telling people Romney’s going to cut taxes for rich people in a way that’s going to put an even greater undue burden on everybody else,” Vaughn said. “Both campaigns realize we need more revenue in this country. We don’t have enough and we’re finding it by getting it from China, and so both of them are looking at the people as places to get more money from, but looking at different groups of people. Barack Obama is looking at the rich people who he feels don’t pay enough. Mitt Romney is saying there are people here who aren’t paying anything and they should pay more.”
Rus Yazdanpour, a senior majoring in Spanish and Mathematics, supports Obama, especially his policies toward making higher education more affordable through Pell Grant funding.
“If it weren’t for something like that going to school at Boise State would be either a debt-incurring process or a very laborious process,” Yazdanpour said. “He makes my life as a student easier.”
Other topics that Jared Yett, a junior majoring in business, finds important are the national debt, deficit, foreign policy and energy. He has yet to decide who will get his vote, but will make his decision by examining the candidates’ stances on the issues. The size of the government is a crucial aspect he will consider.
“Being from Idaho, I prefer a smaller federal government,” Yett said.
Yett brought up the significant fact that college students need to consider all sides and keep an open mind when it comes to picking a candidate.
“They both have certain perspective that they bring to the table, and we need to be able to see that,” Yett said.
It is the nature of attending university to make one question, investigate and have the desire to be a more informed citizen who participates in critical political decisions.
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