Jennifer VanBramer: Young voters assess presidential election


PITTSFIELD — The 2016 presidential election, happening this November, has become a major topic of discussion amongst the younger generation. Students, specifically those in the Berkshires, from the ages of 16 to 18, have taken a notable amount of interest in who they would like to see as the next president. They have participated in class discussions, watched televised debates and followed social media for the latest news.

Austin White, 17, a junior at Taconic High School, said that he "cares about who will be our next president because they will be the one running our country for the next four years... it's important to me."

Chloe Haas, 16, another junior from the school, said that she also "cares about the presidency...I want someone who will manage our country well and make it better."

Although White and Haas are not yet eligible to vote, they both plan to register when they turn 18. They are involved in the political realm and aim to vote, as it will affect each of their futures.

Taking a closer look at the political involvement of high school students, a voting survey was conducted at the school. Among the 80 juniors and seniors who participated, Bernie Sanders won 61 percent of the votes to make him the top contender for what these current and soon-to-be voters want or would like to have as their next president. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two of the well known candidates, were not close to Sanders. Clinton totaled only 4 percent of the votes while Trump had 10 percent.

Yet, not everyone is openly eager about the options for presidential candidates and seem more attracted towards simply tossing in their vote with the rest of the crowd.

"Overall, I am not interested in this specific campaign," said Josie Lavalley, 17, a junior at Taconic.

However she makes it known that, "I'm not old enough to vote, but if I were to choose one candidate, I would choose Bernie Sanders, only as a bandwagon with people of my age group."

So what would make a first-time voter feel more self-confident when voting for a candidate?

"To become more informed," Lavalley said. "I would read more articles on the subject and hear different opinions from different people."

Not only is it interesting who this generation supports as a candidate, but how they handle the vast amounts of information campaign parties are throwing at them that sparks even more debate. The developments in social media, in particular, have become very effective in influencing first-time voters about the presidential election and who they should be voting for.

"In this day in age, social media is a resource that we use every day," said junior Austin White.

According to results from a survey asking students to rank they ways they get information, social media, television, and Internet news sites emerged as the top three ways students choose to educate themselves about national politics. Social media topped it all with 84 percent of the vote, but with television not too far behind with 81 percent.

Even though this age group is geared towards these forms of acquiring information, they seem, for the most part, observant enough to see fact versus fiction.

"Social media is definitely not reliable because everyone is opinionated," junior Chloe Haas said. "People using social media are one-sided and they never give both views of the argument."

Like Haas, White is skeptical. "Facebook is indeed the most popular social media site used for learning about the elections and candidates. But we should look deeper and find out who is posting the information ... Is it a good source to rely on?"

The results from this poll indicate, at least in one school, how many students are watching the Democratic and Republican debates and are interested in reading through social media or online about the presidency. These students are captivated by and concerned about each candidate and what they are promising for America, knowing that this November's election is going to affect a big part of their life and their future as Americans.

Jennifer VanBramer is a junior at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. She plans on entering this article and accompanying data into a contest to potentially attend the New England Center for Investigative Reporting's 2016 Summer Investigative Reporting Workshop at Boston University.


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