The student newspaper of Strath Haven High School. The Panther Press is first and foremost a reflection of the opinions and interests of the student body. For this reason, we do not publish any anonymous or teacher-written submissions, and we do not discriminate against any ideology or political opinion. While we are bound by school policy (and funding), we will not render any article neutral, although individual points may be edited for obscene or inflammatory content. Finally, the articles published in the Panther Press do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or advisors.

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Student Views and Participation This Election Season

Martine Leech, '17, Staff Writer

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At last.

With only one day left before the historic presidential election of 2016, it is time to pause to consider the last eighteen months and some of the issues that have arisen during the campaign: Donald Trump’s hair. Hillary Clinton’s emails. The wall. The fall. Obamacare. The Supreme Court. Putin. College loans. Republican Trump’s views about women. Democrat Clinton’s views about “deplorables.” And a man named Gary Johnson. Strath Haven High school contains students ranging from uninterested to concerned to excited, and understanding how students view this election is important to identifying generational divides and key topics for high schoolers.

In a recent survey of 30 Strath Haven High School seniors, students were asked, “What are the most important issues in this election?” Ten individuals from the sample responded that the most important issues of this election season had to do with some type of scandal or offensive remark. Despite not having lived through many presidential elections, it appears to the younger generation that this presidential election takes mudslinging to the next level.

Two interviewed students brought up good points by voicing that their concern with these comments stems from a fear of the world-wide backlash that such anti-American scandals bring. How does it look to students and young people both here at Haven and around the world when Donald Trump claims he wants to ban people from the country based off of religious preference?

While there is no shortage of interesting characters, blown-up scandals, and concerned voters, the policy based issues of this election season stir some discussion amoungst Strath Haven students as well. In an additional survey done at Strath Haven, when students were asked the question “ What do you think is the most important policy based issue of this election?”, twenty three Strath Haven students replied with these seven different responses: Trump, women’s rights, abortion, ISIS, immigration, debt, and the economy. Some students passed, claiming they could not prioritize any single issue. Immigration received the most votes — seven students put it as the most important issue of the election. The economy, by contrast, only received three votes.

Now because Strath Haven is a High School, it is important to remember that most of these students will not be voting. However, as educated teenagers – almost old enough to vote – how do student responses compare to the national polls? According to Pew Research Center’s national polls, 80% of people aged 18-29 say that the economy is very important when they are considering who to vote for while immigration is only at 68%. Immigration and the economy were the two most important issues to students, and both have high percentages nationally, compared to some other issues, abortion with only 46% and Supreme court justices with only 45% for example.

Why do Strath Haven students care more about immigration and the economy than – for example – college debt. It seems reasonable that with the idea of free college for people with family incomes under a certain standard would be an area of interest for high school students, but no student brought this up. This is likely due to the mainstream media diluting the true content of this election with scandal and fluff. Another example is the Supreme Court. The appointment of the Supreme Court justices has the greatest difference of importance between the older and the younger: in this Pew Research Center poll 74% of people the older the age of 50 say that this important when they’re voting, but only around 53% under the age of 50 find this issue important. Why is this? Young people don’t find this interesting; it’s almost never in the news. Haven students too are guilty of this ignorance. Senior Val Henderson states, “I cannot name any potential justices, and I think this is because the news likes to talk about more dramatic issues. But I do know that this election has a huge influence on the lean of the Supreme Court and I know people who are voting with this in mind.” Many Haven students don’t consider themselves to be super political, but they do their best to keep up to date. This is likely the case for the majority of younger people with budding political views. Now why does this change as people get older? Why does the older generation care more about Supreme Court justices than the younger generation? Perhaps there is a social media divide from the older versus the younger generation, so this barrier gives the media more influence on younger voters than older voters. When flipping through news stations and through social media, teenagers are bombarded with sound bites of short, offensive comments and scandals. It is getting harder and harder to stay well informed. In terms of the generational divide, it is important to realize that every generation has its issue, but every issue affects all generations. For example, the appointed justice will rule their whole lives, affecting high school students. Additionally, the issue of college debt may be ignored by a significant number of Haven students, but it will definitely be affecting the younger generation quite soon. It is apparent that much of the student population is being dragged into the scandal of this election season rather than staying grounded in the issues. For the policy based issues that students found important, it is interesting that college tuition and supreme court appointees did not make the list while immigration and the economy did.

Here at Strath Haven, the senior class is 25% of the school, maybe a little more or less. Only people born before November 8th can vote, meaning likely around a maximum of 25% of the senior class, so one sixteenth of the school’s student population. That’s maybe under 100 students. However, it is also important to factor in how many of those remembered to register before October 11th, which probably decreases this number. If you use 75 – likely a high estimate of our school’s voters – out of a national population of around 320 million, that is only, at best, a little more than .00002%. Miniscule. Strath Haven students will have almost no effect on the election. However, this mentality is the problem. With no voting the decisions to pick the decision makers is made by the decision makers themselves, which puts the country in a quite confusing downward spiral. Some other countries like Belgium and Australia have compulsory voting, with a fee for those who do not participate. However, that is not how America works. But if citizens don’t vote, then the term “democracy” means nothing.

Therefore, Haven students are stuck somewhere in between the two: red, white and blue posters telling us to register with celebrities and politicians telling us that every vote matters. Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama have told us to vote. And they’re right. Every voice, every vote- it matters. Don’t let the media bog down the facts and true issues of this election. For us high school students, this election means paying close attention and starting to pave out a political mindset to last a lifetime. Stay tuned; this will be an election to remember.

The student newspaper of Strath Haven High School. The Panther Press is first and foremost a reflection of the opinions and interests of the student body. For this reason, we do not publish any anonymous or teacher-written submissions, and we do not discriminate against any ideology or political opinion. While we are bound by school policy (and funding), we will not render any article neutral, although individual points may be edited for obscene or inflammatory content. Finally, the articles published in the Panther Press do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or advisors.
Student Views and Participation This Election Season