Students Speak: 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

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This post is part of a student series written by BMS Senior Madi Johnson. Feel free to contact her at [email protected] if you’re interested in commenting on a future topic.

“Immigration,” “gun control,” “education,” “taxes,” “economy,” “same-sex marriage,” “health care,” “climate change,” “foreign policy,” and “environment”according to a three-month study done by Google Trends, these are the ten most searched-for buzzwords of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. With so many different issues and candidates to keep track of—as of now, nearly twenty men and women have officially entered the race—and a Republican and Democratic debate already behind us, the election season is beginning to heat up.  

An important voice that is sometimes ignored in this discussion is that of Generation Z or Second Wave Millennials—those born in the mid to late 1990’s who currently number over 30 million. Many people are quick to cast off this demographic as more concerned with its social media presence than the latest hot-button issue, but millions of high school students are, as they should be, interested in politics because the decisions of the next president will affect their futures. Moreover, Generation Z’s opinions are particularly important in Maryland because Maryland is one of twenty states that allows seventeen-year-olds to vote in primaries and caucuses so long as they are eighteen by November 8, 2016. As such, their voting patterns have the power to significantly sway who will be nominated for, and subsequently win, the upcoming election.

This raises the question: What issues are important to young voters, and which candidate best advocates for these issues? If the election were held today, who do they think would win, and why?

We asked local high school students to weigh in. Here’s what they had to say:

RACHEL BOGIN, Bryn Mawr School
“As a young voter, the issue of illegal immigration is most important to me because I am a first-generation American, and firmly believe that this country has so many amazing opportunities and freedoms to offer [to] those who need them. Though I disagree with a few of her stances on the issue, I believe that Hillary Clinton is one of the best advocates of this issue. She realizes not only the importance of helping those who have already immigrated illegally to the United States, but also the need to aid ‘our neighbors to the south, to help them create more jobs for their own people,’ among other ways. Everyone deserves a life in which they feel safe and free to live their lives, and Clinton’s stance on illegal immigration reflects this view.”

ROBIN BROCATO, Bryn Mawr School
“I think that most young voters are concerned about economic issues, like the income tax plan and the way the government spends money because we are about to join the workforce full-time. Donald Trump seems to be the biggest advocate for this issue with his tax plan that is supposed to reduce the income tax that each citizen pays. Due to Trump’s laid out plan and his obvious fiscal credentials, I think he stands the best chance of winning the general election at the moment. Donald Trump may be overly blunt at times, but voters are attracted to him since he is so honest and does not act like a politician, which is somewhat refreshing.”

MADII HOFFMAN, Carver School for Arts and Technology
“For me, I’m a very political person. Everything is political to me. To a certain extent, being a middle class student, being a woman, I feel like my life is politicized—with and without my consent. For all students, though, I think a unifying issue is that of higher education. We’re told we have to go to college if we want any shot at any kind of job, but graduate absolutely drowning in debtdebt we won’t pay off for literal decades. It’s just not feasible for the vast majority of young Americans, and yet we’re told it’s an absolute requirement. If elections were held today, I would absolutely vote for [Bernie] Sanders. They say you begin to lose your hearing as you age, but he seems to be listening best. I vote Sanders because he understands that we are still fighting for an equal playing field, that we are not a post-racial society, that the LGBT’s biggest issue hasn’t been solved with the passing of same-sex marriage, that reproductive rights are just that—rights, that education is a right, that a living wage is a right, that the idea that we need to finally pay attention to the long ignored isn’t a sacrilegious idea.”

“The most important issue for me is the economy because the economy dictates the quality of life for me, my family, and my country. Than man who represents this is John Kasich who is socially in the middle, but is fiscally conservative and will grow the economy and balance the budget. I think he would [win] if people knew his name, so I think Marco Rubio has the best chance to when when individuals stop supporting outsider candidates like Trump and Carson.”

GUS MENY, Gilman School
“I’d like to see a candidate who improves our economy, adopts a mostly multilateral approach in foreign policy, deals with racial injustice, reduces police brutality, legalizes marijuana, and increases science and infrastructure, all while maintaining a strong, kind, and trustworthy personality. Of course, I realize what I’m asking forI doubt that a human being can actually do all of this, especially with a huge debt hanging over our heads. I’m essentially asking for a miracle, but those are all the issues I care about in this upcoming election if I’m telling the truth.

I can’t say I’m entirely thrilled with any of the candidates for 2016. If I had to choose the candidate who I trust the most, it’d be Bernie Sanders. While I don’t agree with all of his policies, he seems ready to tackle racial injustice, I think it’s likely that he’ll legalize marijuana, and he does seem ready to tackle police brutality. I worry about his economic policies, though, and I worry that his foreign policy may not be as robust as I would like it to be. I also think he’s a nice, genuine guy, which is important. In picking the best out of mediocre options, he certainly seems to be okay, so I’d probably vote for him. Hillary Clinton seems to be a close second, as she possesses political knowledge, having worked as Secretary of State, not to mention living with a President, which undoubtedly gave her valuable experience. However, I am concerned about her lack of discussion on racial inequality, and worry about her dedication to domestic issues.”

JULIA POTTER, Roland Park Country School
“I have always seen myself as a liberal. I believe that the liberal ideals address the concerns of students and young adult voters…Out of the few Democratic candidates, I support Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton…I am excited to see a presidential candidate, Sanders, show so much concern for domestic issues like paid maternity leave and [reducing] the cost of college. By emphasizing the importance of such issues, Sanders is revealing the shortcomings of our democracy, and he is changing the dialogue for voters. Additionally, Sanders stated in the debate that climate change is our country’s greatest threat. This is something I also strongly agree with, and I am excited that a presidential candidate is finally [taking] climate change’s threat seriously…On the other hand, as a female, I would be empowered to vote for [potentially] the first female president next November. Clinton has also illustrated her passion and expertise for many issues, butunlike SandersClinton is constantly defending the validity and strength of her beliefs. She was slow to accept gay marriage and also has showed clemency in her actions concerning Wall Street bankers…[As of now], I believe Clinton has the best chance to win the entire Presidential Election. I just hope she will keep her word and maybe have a little more luck negotiating with Congress.”

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