Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Decision 2008

A Work Force Too Busy To Vote
By Alexa Breslin

Are American workers too busy to vote?

The primaries leading to the November election will help to determine which candidates are nominated by their parties to run for president. However, a recent informal poll in New Jersey shows that many workers can’t fit voting in primaries or even the general election into their daily schedules.

The poll, which I conducted, of 25 New Jersey citizens in February, ranging in age from 21 to 57, sought to determine who voted in the primaries and if so, for which candidate, and whether they plan to vote in the general election. Basic information was gathered as from each participant, such as name, age, occupation, and party affiliation. Depending on their answers, some participants were chosen for a follow-up interview.

Only three of the 25 participants voted in the primaries, however, all 25 participants said they would vote in the general election in November.

Kristi Jahnke, 23, a second-year law student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, is a registered Republican and one of the three participants who voted in the primaries. “I voted for Mitt Romney, though it was a last minute decision because I really like McCain too,” Jahnke said in a recent interview.

“Since Romney is out, I’ll be voting for McCain in November. McCain has been in the Senate since 1987, he has tons of experience, he knows what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly, he’s a veteran and former prisoner of war. I think we agree on a lot of issues,” Jahnke added.

The remaining 22 participants who did not vote in the primaries had various reasons why they decided to stay home on February 5, otherwise known as “Super Tuesday,” the largest day of the presidential nomination process when 24 states went to the polls.

“I just ran out of time,” said stay-at-home mother of four, Jayne Lewandowski, 45, of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. “The Primaries aren’t as important as the presidential election anyway,” she added.

Most of the participants polled who did not vote agreed with Lewandowski that the primaries are not as important as the presidential election.

“I feel as though my vote will count more in November because more voters will turn out to the polls,” said Ryan Donde, 21, a third-year business student at Montclair State University and the youngest of the polled participants. Although Donde follows politics, he did not vote on Super Tuesday because “there are too many elections and candidates for Americans to follow and partake in,” he said.

The majority of the 22 participants who did not vote are over 40 and work full-time. One of them, Susan Nissen, 56, a manager of sales operations at Stryker Orthopedics, said, “I didn’t get out to vote, I worked all day.”

This informal poll confirmed a suspicion that the majority of the U.S. work force does not have time in their daily schedules to get out to the polls and vote in many of the elections. The daily grind appears to be crushing individual political participation.

Decision 2008

Keeping The Faith In A Political Year
By Alexandra Kolbeck

Millions of people have died because of it, and billions of people believe in some form of it or dismiss it all together. The country was founded on its principles, it is printed hundreds of times in historical documents, and we see it every day on our currency. It’s religion, and according to a recent poll, 92% of American’s believe in God or some other higher power.

With every political election, religion causes controversy. Whether they’re for it, against it, or non-sectarian, a candidate’s religion is an important issue. With the 2008 presidential election already underway, this topic has gotten many voters thinking about religion. Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, or a member of any other political party, religion may play a part in the candidate you choose to support. For some, religion plays no role at all and for others it is completely irrelevant. However, for many voters, like Ryan Fisher, 21, religion is non-negotiable. “I would never vote for someone who didn’t believe in God,” she said.

With a huge, Texas evangelical backing, Sen. John McCain sets the bar for fellow Republican candidates like Mike Huckabee who attended the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was has been the pastor of two Baptist churches. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s prayers have not gone unnoticed either. She has made it very clear that her Methodist background plays a large role in what kind of president she would be. However, her opponent, Barack Obama, has not been very public with his affiliations with the United Church of Christ.

It may be a strategy to separate a candidate’s religious beliefs from his or her political beliefs, but it may also play in a candidates favor to associate their image with a religion, especially if it is a form of Christianity. Almost every U.S. President has been religious, or to quote John F. Kennedy, “guided by the principles of their faith.” With many crucial votes residing in the U.S. “Bible Belt,” someone like John McCain, who is a very outspoken, Republican, Episcopalian, could fair very well.

For many voters however, religion is not something that affects their vote. Nick Stauth, 24 says, “I tend to relate politics as something that I feel has more of an impact on my day to day life, instead of my overall spirituality.”

For a candidate to not publicly address his or her religion regularly could be off-putting to some voters. Many feel as though it gives them insight into what kind of person they are voting for. Kathleen Grisanti, 44 says, “The only time I’ve heard Barack Obama speak about his religion is when he was defending himself and denying he was Muslim. If it had not been such a controversial topic, I would never have known he was a Christian.”

Each individual voter’s personal beliefs are going to affect their decision as they choose which candidate they believe should lead our country. While religion is an important factor in making this decision, it is not the only one. This is why it has become even more important for a candidate to express every facet of their views on both a personal level and a political level throughout their campaign.

Some voters believe that a candidate’s individual ability to convey their message is critical in helping them win their support. While others feel that the candidate’s ability to communicate might be more important than their specific religious beliefs or the church that they follow. When it boils down to it, the extent to which candidates display their religious principles may determine how they fair in the general election.

Decision 2008

Different Ages, Different Political Concerns
By Chris Mirarchi

Across the board, the variety of political opinion is truly being highlighted. This year, more than ever, the presidential election is very popular, and not just among the older generation. The younger generation, those aged 18-25, is putting their two cents in as well -- 59.9% of this group is registered voters.

When it comes to party voting affiliation, two big differences are age and income. It’s more likely for someone with a lesser income to vote Democrat. According to a 2006 poll, 67% people making less than $15,000 a year voted for Democrats, while 53% of people making more than $200,000 a year voted for Republicans, according to

Frank Lombardi, a 22 year-old Communication Arts major at Marymount Manhattan College has a strong opinion on his biggest concerns. “Personally, it's gay and lesbian rights. But for this next election it's more on health care and the war in Iraq,” he said.

When it comes to who’s voting for whom, it’s not just Democrat versus Republican, it’s Democrat versus Democrat versus Republican.

Lombardi said, “I am voting for Hillary because I like her plans for Iraq. They are more organized, thought out, and realistic. Obama I like just as well, so if he gets the bid then I will not be upset, but I feel like Obama’s plans are too unrealistic. Everyone says he is a great speaker/orator but I feel like his passion sometimes gets in the way of delivering a clear speech.”

Although Lombardi is an avid Clinton supporter, if it came down to it, he would still vote for Obama, unlike Jenny Cahak, an 18 year-old Communications Arts major at Marymount who supports Obama. She said if it’s not Obama, she wouldn’t mind the next president to be McCain. “I think we need a change. I don’t want another Republican, but I actually don’t mind McCain, I think he could do a good job.”

With different ages, come different views and concerns. Unlike the young liberals who are very concerned about the war in Iraq, the older generation is concerned about finances. “I am voting for John McCain, because I like his positions on national security, foreign policy and the economy,” said Charles Mirarchi, a 50 year-old director at Verizon. He has voted Republican in every election since he was 18, and does not agree with what the Democrats have to offer.

“The two Democratic candidates really want to expand government and penalize the biggest contributors that pay taxes,” said Mirarchi. “I hit the maximum every year in Social Security and when I hit it, that a benefit so I don’t have to pay more. I don’t think you should make national health insurance part of the government. I pay for my children’s college 100 percent. I have to earn my own health insurance because I earn too much money, and I don’t get any breaks. I have been paying the maximum in Social Security since 1990 and I won’t live long enough to get that money back,” he said.

Another concern for Mirarchi is taxes. “I also disagree with the national natural disaster insurance plan. I disagree with having to pay taxes for other people’s choice to live in national accident prone areas. All they are going to do is decrease my paycheck and increase my taxes,” Mirarchi said.

In terms of their voting patterns, Americans have a variety of opinions, and depending on age, race, background and income, it’s all a matter of what concerns hit home that will determine who they will support in this year’s election.

Decision 2008

Are The Primary Elections For “Real Voters?”
By Jenifer Carbonara

The next time you’re on a crowded subway, are in line at the grocery store, or even taking a languid commercial break between your American Idol marathon party, turn to the person standing next to you and ask, “Did you vote in the primaries?” Chances are that, even in politically-driven New York City, you may hear a big, fat “No.”

What gives? It seems that news outlets everywhere are boasting about the turnout for the primaries. But one day of riding the subway, walking through Central Park, and bothering my roommate during her TV time gave me a measly three affirmatives to the question ‘did you vote in the primary?’

Though it seems logical that getting to choose which person you want to represent you come November would be immensely important and exciting (especially as many voters have nothing but complaints about the candidates up for the vote come E-Day) many people shy away from the primary elections, instead voting only in the November presidential election.

“I figure that only people who are really “into” politics follow the primaries—the rest of the people just vote in the general election,” says Pamela Carbonara, 51.

Gregory Crompton, 36, said, “Only people who have money or time bother with the primaries.”

And, Amie Charlery, 21, proclaimed, “I’ll probably vote in the real election.”

Needless to say, the primary elections appear to be nothing more than an interim between “real” elections—they are reserved for people who have invested time and/or money into a candidate, not for your average Joe. Once again, America removes itself from ability to effect change.

However, it is a fact that this year boasted the highest ever turnout rates for votes in the primary election—more than 18% of eligible voters participated, setting records. In the “real” election of 2004, 64% of eligible voters nationwide voted. So why is it that the 2008 primary elections yielded three times less voters than the presidential election of 2006? Where did all the voters go?

“I think it comes down to the Democrat versus Republican race that interests people. It is easier to choose between two candidates who are so clearly opponents than to choose between two candidates who are kind of on the same side,” said Andrea Barthlow, 28. “When it’s Democrat versus Democrat or Republican versus Republican, you figure either way you win.”

If interest is what is lacking in the primary elections, the 2008 Democratic candidates should have provided more than enough interest to captivate the audience—and, as the polls show, it certainly did affect the turnout. But that does not change the fact that people are viewing the primaries with an almost highbrow trepidation that is only doing more harm than good.

“You can’t win if you don’t play the game,” said the primary voting Crompton. “It just doesn’t work like that.”

Decision 2008

Money And Health Care Top The List Of Concerns For Some Voters
By Brian Batista

At the Columbia University campus in New York, many students are aware of their vital impact this year, but some have yet to decide on which candidate is the best fit for president of the United States. On the other hand, there are just as many students that are decided and anxious for November to roll around so that their votes can be counted.

Statistics show that more that 29 million 18-24 year old registered voters will determine the outcome of this year’s presidential race for the White House, according to the Youth Vote Coalition. This election is already being considered a close call, and so are some of the decisions this particular demographic is making on their potential candidate. This age group, from different genders, backgrounds and majors, are trying to decide who will be the ideal candidate to determine the direction of our American society.

A number of college-age students seem to have one big issue on their mind: money. With the country in recession and various financial markets falling short of profits, many students are curious as to what kind of job market awaits them upon graduation.

“I am really concerned that by graduation this June, I will not be able to compete with others in a job market where everyone is desperately trying to hold on to their jobs” says Alexia Herrera, 24, journalism major. “I feel we have wasted a ridiculous amount of money and time on a senseless war, which is affecting our economy. I have decided that my vote will go to Hillary Clinton this year. She is clear, concise and is telling me everything I need to hear-we need to pull out of Iraq and focus on us.”

Herrera also said she supports Sen. Clinton because of her previous experience in the White House, and added, “We all know she was pretty much running the country while Bill was out in the shack with Monica”.

Mohammed Dakar, 23, political science major, agrees with Herrera. “I believe that a war with such endless resolve is draining our country of financial reserves, if we even have any money left.”

However, Dakar seems cautiously optimistic about this close race. With a large number of Obama supporters and his constant positive press, unlike Clinton, who rarely sees a day without negative stories about her, he sees this as a potential sign of trouble.

“A lot of people are being sucked into the Obama campaign because I feel like he is simply telling the public what they want to hear, and the overt use of the word “change” by his camp is luring in a lot of voters that just want the image. But they do not bother to research the facts, something I feel Obama is coming up short with.”

However, some students believe that Sen. Obama may have a solution to at least one pressing problem – health care.

Shannon Edwards, 20, an anthropology major, voted in the primaries and is anxious for her chance to vote for Barack Obama again this fall, in an already close election for power in the White House.

“I feel like he is a fine representation for our country and can fix a lot of the issues we are facing today,” she says. “To me, he seems like he is going to make changes in making health care affordable for me and my younger sister, with cancer.”

Edwards reflects on her experiences with health care providers and insurance companies that have denied her sister of coverage over the last few months. “It has been a struggle to find good health care for her, many insurance companies want nothing to do with us due to her condition, and I feel that Obama will strive to make insurance affordable for everyone, myself included.”

Decision 2008

Voters Are Becoming Wary Of The Vision For Change
By Amber Gray

Bob Dylan wrote, “The times they are A-Changing” and this motto is close to coming true. In the 2008 presidential election, for the first time in history, a black man and a white woman have stood out among the much older, rich white men who have led the country in the past. Voters are being fed daily by the desire for “change.”

Yet, many voters believe change is something that is more comprehensive than Obama’s skin color and Clinton’s gender. Grocery store manager, Robert Gray, 43, of Boston, Massachusetts has found it hard to stand by his firm liberal values in this upcoming election. To him, Sen. Barack Obama’s lack of experience is overshadowing his devotion to change.

“It’s like they’re reading a script. They all seem to be rooting for this magical idea that change can just happen with the snap of their fingers. I get kind of frustrated because I don’t know if I see it truly happening,” said Gray.

Gray has lost hope in both candidates, and so far is standing by John McCain, pending McCain’s choice for a running mate. “Democratically, Obama just does not have the experience, but maybe next time around he would. As for Hilary Clinton, I think she has a lot of skeletons in her closet and plays the game dirty.”

Yet, the younger generation of voters, 18-25 year olds make up 14.4% of the total eligible voters and many have indeed been persuaded by the ideal vision of change. Obama and Clinton are increasingly gaining attention from this group, but will they come out to vote? The one crucial factor is if these young people really feel their vote can make a difference.

“In the past I didn’t care much for politics because I never felt I had anything in common with who was running,” says Chae Munroe, 19, a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College. “I think that this election is going to be different, kids are going to come out because both Democrats want to fulfill our needs.” Munroe, an Obama supporter, saw him on MTV’s Special Report Election Episode and said he really made her realize that her vote can create a new beginning.

“He really has gotten the younger kids to listen up,” Munroe said. “These are the issues, this is what is going wrong with our country and this is how I can solve it. Change is necessary, this war should have never happened.”

Greg Padin, 21, a junior at Fordham University is also skeptical about change really happening. As an avid member of his school’s debate team, he and other members contemplate on the issues daily.

“I'd like to see someone who can balance the budget so we aren't in such a fragile economic state,” he said. “Also, I’d like to see a candidate who will look to a smaller government and pull away from a federal government that regulates every single social issue.”

On the question of whether his vote will matter, Padin becomes unenthusiastic.
“I'll vote but I know it won't matter but you still gotta play the game I guess.”

The truth is, 29 million people age 18-24 are eligible to vote, which means young voters could determine the outcome of this election. Yet, as we’ve seen in the past, many don’t come out to do so. To bring the change that Obama and Clinton strive for, the younger generation needs to change their voting habits.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Decision 2008

Promise Of Change Causing Mixed Emotions For Some Voters
By Sara Bauknecht

The battle for the White House has captivated the public due to the unprecedented diversity of its frontrunners. But just as the candidates’ diverse faces have etched themselves in Americans’ minds, the word “change” has also attracted attention.

With a costly war lingering in the Middle East and an economy dangling on the threshold of a recession, the possibility of change under the next president rouses a mixture of anxiety and hope for many Americans. As the primary season continues, the fear that the next president may not be able to deliver change as promised looms over many voters like a storm cloud.

“For the last 40 years, I feel everyone has preached change,” said Steve Valloric, 70. “Since there are certain rules presidents have to follow, and there is Congress they have to deal with, change doesn’t really seem to ever happen,” he said. Valloric, a retired Columbia gasoline employee from Ohio, has not voted in 40 years because he feels his voice is not heard. He also doesn’t think there has been a candidate in recent years that could improve America. “Candidates promise you the world, and they don’t give you anything,” Valloric said.

Photo by Patty Valloric
Steve Valloric says he hasn’t
voted in 40 years.

Dread Archie, a 37 year-old door attendant from New York, shares Valloric’s view that change may not likely occur after next November. “I am concerned that there may not be a change. I am concerned that things may just get worse,” Archie said.

Archie chose not to vote in New York’s presidential primary on February 5. Like Valloric, he does not feel that his voice is acknowledged when he casts his ballot. “I have a voice, but I don’t really think it is going to be heard. At the end of the day, I feel that politics is all just a game,” he said.

While some voters like Valloric and Archie doubt that change will unfurl, many first time voters are heading to the polls in spite of their uncertainties concerning change. “Every election focuses on bringing about change, but at the end of the day you are always going to have conspiracies and individuals influencing people to act in certain ways,” said Jacquelline Leva, a 19 year-old Marymount Manhattan College student from New York.

Photo by P. J. Leva
Jacquelline Leva is a first-
time voter.

Although Leva feels that change may not materialize exactly as presidential candidates have promised, she still decided to make her voice heard by voting for John McCain in New York’s primary. “I think I have a voice. I am part of the United States. Even though I have only one vote, it may be that one vote that a candidate needs to win the election,” Leva said.

Like Leva, Brooke McVey, a 19 year-old Ohio University Eastern student and Hillary Clinton supporter, agrees that it is important that people, especially younger voters, get involved in the political process. “People in my age group need to speak up and do something or our future will be in danger,” McVey said.

Photo byPhyllis McVey
Brooke McVey believes young voters
should get involved in politics.

And, McVey may be correct. According to the Youth Vote Coalition, 18-30 year-olds constitute 24% of all eligible voters. Since approximately one quarter of the nation’s voting power rests in the hands of young adults, the chance to experience change may be determined by whether these individuals decide to vote.

With the general election still nine months away, the role of change in the next president’s agenda will likely remain unclear until November, and beyond.

Decision 2008

Are Young Voters Swayed By Celebrity Endorsements?
By Kat Piracha
The nation’s future is tied to young voters. But are politicians appealing effectively to this group?

As the November election approaches, will candidates come up with more creative methods other than celebrity endorsements to coax young voters to choose them?

Candidates are using a number of well-known people to help bring out the vote. However, many young voters appear not to care much for celebrity endorsements. In interviews with students from Marymount Manhattan College who are assumed to be the age group most affected by celebrity endorsements, none were even aware of the celebrity in the campaigns. After they were informed, they did not feel compelled to sway their vote.

When young voters were asked what about their candidates’ image made them want to vote for them, Terrence Bennett, a 21 year-old Theater Arts Major at Marymount Manhattan College, who voted for Sen. Barrack Obama in the primary, said, “Obama and his wife seemed like a better team. We’ve already seen Clinton’s administration. At first I was for either Clinton of Obama, but it was mainly Obama’s wife who’s image made me choose Obama.”

Terrence Bennett believes Sen. Obama
and his wife Michele make a good team.

According to the Youth Vote Coalition, an online database focusing on young and first time voters, the majority of voters for this election term are 18-30 years old. This sub-group of voters accounts for 64%, of registered voters.

Sen. Obama seems to be creating an image that he is an average guy who has come a long way thanks to the help and belief of the everyday American. Recently, Obama wrote an email to members of his mailing list comparing himself to opponents Sen. John McCain and Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton. In it, he thanked the more than one million contributors to his campaign and highlighted that he, unlike opponents, “haven't taken a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. Our campaign is responsible to no one but the people.”

This appeal seems to be successful. Obama won 11 consecutive primaries and caucuses before losing in Ohio and Texas on March 4.

One possible reason for Sen. Clinton’s lack of success against Obama in appealing to younger voters may be her choice of endorsements. Back in November, Clinton had Barbara Streisand send a letter to all the members in her information email list, a letter compelling them to keep supporting Clinton. Although Streisand is no obscure figure, of all the celebrities to embrace Clinton, a legendary, yet slightly retired star may not be the best person to have on her campaign given the youthful demographics of voters. Scarlet Johanson, a very popular young movie actress, has endorsed Obama, without invitation.

To make the obvious contrast, Streisand is by far a more accomplished singer and film star, who was the first female to direct a film she starred in. she is also an Academy Award winner. Appropriately, like Hillary Clinton, Streisand is a woman who has achieved much. Scarlet Johanson, a 23 year-old actress from New York City, began acting in 1994. She has been nominated for Academy Awards but has yet to win. In January, Johanson rallied for Obama in Cornell.

Anjoli Khatri says she is
drawn to Clinton’s experience.

Anjoli Khatri, a 22 year-old Psychology major said she is going to vote for Clinton if she makes it to November. “I initially compared her to Obama. But his lack of experience is what motivated me to vote for Hilary,” she said. “Hilary has been more specific about her goals as president. Where as Obama has simply used the word change and not specified to what change that would be.”

Marc Zahakos a 20 year-old Psychology major said he is voting for Clinton because he feels, “She carries herself really well, and even during her husband’s last term in office she stepped her game up, which I believe helped her popularity in gearing up for the current campaign.”