Will young people turn out to vote in the 2018 midterm elections? What issues are motivating them? Students in professor Jane Hall’s Advanced Reporting class conducted interviews with American University (AU) students and with students at from other area colleges, including the University of the District of Columbia, Catholic University, Howard University, Georgetown University and George Washington University to find out.
They asked what issues students think are most important, to the country and to themselves personally, and whether they think politicians and media are talking to them. Responses included immigration, climate change, health care and other issues—and many talked about the need for bipartisanship. Excerpts from some of those stories are below.
Hall moderated a town hall held at AU around many of these same questions. The event was later aired by NPR member station WAMU 88.5. Both projects are part of the American Forum initiative, a TV, online and radio series that aims to engage young people and amplify their voices on issues they care about, in politics, media and popular culture. Hall, an award winning journalist, leads the project with support from professor Jeremiah Patterson and students Emily Hall and Claire Savage.
“Ensuring most people have access to voting booths is helpful for prevention of a minority that can be affected by majority power,” said Peter Close.
Close’s passion extends to issues that don’t always involve him as well, such as gun control and sexual assault, recent issues that have been at the forefront of voters’ minders.
But beyond voting rights, Close particularly feels that one of the most important issues at risk are reproductive rights, particularly since the Republican party has taken over Congress. Men, he said, are “essentially protected in every form,” highlighting how that increases the risks of losing healthcare that doesn’t belong to them.
For Elise Stebick, a senior at American University, being a Republican on a politically active campus centered in an overwhelmingly liberal city is not always easy.
Stebick, an intern for the National Republican Congressional Committee, accredits American University’s campus climate of diminishing speech to a lack of open-mindedness between student members of both major parties.
Mending bitter relationships between Democrats and Republicans on campus begins with acknowledging each other’s ideological merits, Stebick believes. Promoting amicable bipartisan cooperation is something she will be casting her vote in favor of on her midterm election ballot.
Bawornluck “Lucky” Sasiphong believes that the midterm elections can change the tide of policy on Capitol Hill. The senior from Queens, New York is a registered Democrat who plans to vote for a liberal candidate this November. “I think a lot of people tend to forget that during midterms, that’s the easiest way for both the House and the Senate to potentially flip.”
Sasiphong is vocal about her support for the Democratic party, but she feels as if Asian-American issues are underrepresented and overlooked within the party.
Sasiphong notes that Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have very little representation in Congress. There are only 18 AAPI members of Congress – a record all-time high. One factor in this lack of representation is the unfortunate reality that Asians, like Sasiphong, are deterred from getting involved in politics: “I think traditionally Asian people prefer their children to pursue a career in like, business or med, or pharmacy.”