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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Students Tilt Towards Kerry

Despite UMass Boston’s generally unique perspective as a commuter school of non-traditional students from diverse walks of life, attitudes surrounding the upcoming presidential election remain in step with the majority of young voters, leaning towards Democratic candidate John Kerry. According to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), “Throughout the presidential campaign support for candidates among young registered voters has varied, although John Kerry has generally led. In a poll conducted by MTV and CIRCLE in late September of this year, 48 percent of young voters ages 18-29 supported Kerry, and 42 percent supported George W. Bush.” That heightened support for Kerry is often true at UMass Boston. A majority of students informally polled on campus plan to vote for Senator Kerry on November 2, or would choose him over President Bush if they were going to vote. Angel Garcia is a registered Independent who plans to vote for Kerry. “My family background is for the majority Democrat, and they have careers with the city and the state. I’ve seen how they lost jobs because of the political structure,” he says. Some students say that the majority of talk on campus about the election is not so much pro-Kerry as it is anti-Bush. “There’s a lot of buzz on this campus about people being anti-Bush and a lot of stuff in the media,” says Art History major Nora Gilchrist. “The office and stewardship of this nation should not be given to George Bush for another four years,” offers Jobian Herron. Herron, leader of Jobian’s Society, a talk-show style club, where students can drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and discuss school, sports, politics, and the opposite sex, says that picking from two Yale graduates doesn’t offer a very broad choice, but calls third party candidate Ralph Nader a “joke.” “I’m voting for John Kerry because John Kerry is the best alternative,” he says. “As a citizen, I absolutely refuse to have my elected leader conjure up the specter of terrorism to justify any decision or to justify their own place in government.” But not all students on campus share this view. Political Science major Matt Steuert, 21, is one of approximately 12 UMB student members of the Socialist Alternative, a multi-campus group that meets weekly in Cambridge. Steuert plans to vote for Nader. “It’s a protest vote. There needs to be a pull to the left, otherwise the left will never be fully represented,” he says. “It’s the only platform that’s truly different from the other two and that represents my beliefs, being against the war and corporate exploitation.” Despite his convictions, Steuert thinks Kerry will win. “The greatest issue is actually personality-based. I think most people don’t feel that they can trust Bush anymore,” he says. However, student Peter Olejnik, cites “moral issues, not fiscal or financial” for his support of Bush. Olejnik likens his political beliefs, a minority view on campus, to that of a Yankee fan in Boston. “It’s kind of unfortunate because we’re supposed to be in a situation where everyone has their own opinion,” says Olejnik. Attitudes on the UMB campus are aligned with the majority of the population of youth voters. According to an MTV/CIRCLE poll conducted in September, the economy and jobs, terrorism and national security, the war in Iraq, education, and civil liberties top off the issues that young registered voters deem most significant in this election.

John Reifenberger, 27, a sophomore who recently returned to school and works full-time says the economy and international affairs are his chief concerns in voting for Kerry. “The economy is really bad right now, and I think just a lot of focus of the government is on international factors,” he said. Paul Cottell, a freshman and assistant student coordinator of the Queer Student Center, agrees. “It’s not just one issue, it’s multi-faceted, the glorification of war…the whole culture of violence,” says Cottel. “The esteem of the United States is just dropping exponentially and will continue to do so under another Bush administration.” Stephanie Long, a registered Democrat and Africana Studies major, plans to vote for Kerry. Her decision is based on domestic policy, “because the war is important but before the war even started there were a lot of problems in the U.S. purposely left unresolved,” she said. The CIRCLE poll reports that youth voter interest in this election is “higher than it has been in the past two presidential elections” as more than 30 percent of registered 18 to 29 year olds say they are paying a lot of attention. In spite of this, CIRCLE cites that “young people represent a declining proportion of the voting eligible population. Since the 1970s, the percentage of eligible voters who are between the ages 18-29 has fallen from 30 percent in 1972 to 21 percent in 2004. Some students at UMass Boston fall into this category. Ken Tran, 21, a second year Finance Major does not plan to vote in the election.

“I never follow the election and I don’t see the point in making an unwise decision because I’m not informed,” he says. “I’d rather not than make a random decision.” Tran says that his history professor advised he and his classmates that it’s better not to vote and make an uninformed decision than to offset the decisions of others, and Tran agrees.

Others cite a Massachusetts tradition of Democratic victory for their aversion to civic participation.

“I’m probably not going to vote just for the reason that I don’t think it makes a difference in this state. I would vote if this was a battleground state,” says Chris Fontenot, 25. “I think that some young people are lazy, hands-off, not really interested and don’t understand how interrelated we are,” says Long. “We’re all connected, what affects one generation affects everyone else in some form or fashion.” Despite some attitudes of indifference and the idea of Massachusetts as a Democratic-given, Long and others remain committed to exercising their rights to vote. “I’m voting because I can,” she says. “Because I want to exercise my right that people died for.”