The upcoming presidential election holds special significance for many Michigan State University’s current undergraduate students. When President Barack Obama won the election in 2008, most of the students populating the residence halls, studying at the libraries and strolling to classes amongst friends did not cast votes. For students who only recently entered legal adulthood, the 2012 presidential election is surrounded by the youthful excitement of finally having a chance to help decide the nation’s future.
“This is my first time voting for president,” said sophomore Jasmine Hunt. “Presidential elections just feel so much more exciting. It’s a big deal.”
Seniors Jazmine Miller and Delorean Brown agree with Hunt, and both said they plan to bestow Obama with their first ever presidential election votes.
“I’m voting for Obama, and it’s honestly not even a race thing for me anymore,” said Miller. “As a college student, I really feel like Romney doesn’t understand me and what I need.”
“It’s important for the middle class to be represented,” added Brown. “College students have a lot to deal with like financial aid and college loans. I want someone who will understand that. I want someone to make policies that will help me as I graduate college and start working.”
According to Bonnie Bucqueroux, a journalism and media professor who emphasizes the importance of being informed to her students, the mindsets of Miller and Brown are common at MSU.
“Many college students are in a transition period,” said Bucqueroux. “They are starting to shed some of their self-centeredness, while slowly becoming more aware of important global issues. Mainly, though, MSU students are concerned with how the next president will help them specifically. Students want to be able to find jobs. That is their top priority.”
“MSU students are exhausted”, said Bucqueroux. “They just want to see something happen.”
Sophomore Erin McGowan is one such student. She said she doesn’t think students understand the importance of the election and why they need to get out and vote.
“This is my first year voting, but I know a lot of people who are voting just because their parents told them to,” she sadi. “I understand it, though. The issues addressed on the news and in the debates can be confusing. The importance of voting and learning about the issues should be stressed more on college campuses to increase the knowledge of student voters and, in the long run, increase our country’s understanding.”
Being an informed citizen is vital, and, clearly understanding this concept, Bucqueroux offered extra credit points to any of her students who watched the recent presidential debates.
“The logic behind that,” said Bucqueroux, who arranged the debate viewings on large projectors, “was to encourage my students to become media literate. There are so many sources of information out there, and not a single one is completely true. I want students on this campus to seek information from all different sources, and to be interested in a wide variety of issues.”
Delorean Brown feels similarly.
“I just really hope people are smart about their votes. I want people to be informed voters, not just voters, and truly understand why they are voting for a candidate”.
Bucqueroux made clear that the current campus level of involvement does not come close to the excitement surrounding the 2008 presidential election. Despite decreasing enthusiasm and increasing pessimism, the youth vote still carries tremendous weight.
Since 2008, experts estimate that 19 million Americans have become eligible to vote. Even if the youth voters of 2012 are less enthusiastic than they were four years ago, their sheer numbers ensure the vitality of the youth vote.
Likely, many college students do not fully grasp the power they hold. Young voters matter. It is entirely possible that this nation’s youth will decide the 2012 presidential election. MSU students have full and hectic schedules, but becoming informed and casting a vote on November 6 should be considered top priorities.