Young Voters

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Exit Interviews on the Exit Poll

San Francisco State University history lecturer Steve Leikin, left, talks with a student at a university election rally in October. Leikin was working with the campaign against Proposition 32. Photo by Ian Hill/KQED.

Leading California pollsters are raising questions about the accuracy of the Edison Research exit poll (viewable on the CNN website) in terms of how big a share young voters — and non-white voters — comprised of all those casting ballots in California in last Tuesday’s election.

What’s not in dispute: Young voters and “ethnic voters” (which is to say Latinos, Asian-Americans and African-Americans) played an influential role in California’s big Democratic turnout… helping to pass Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike measure, and giving President Obama a 21 percentage point edge in the already-blue state.

As we reported last week, Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo cast doubt on the share of last Tuesday’s voters who were under 30. The Edison exit poll put 18-29 year olds at 27 percent of Californians who voted in this election. But 18-29 year olds make up just 16 percent of all registered voters in the state, said DiCamillo. And in 2008 exit polling showed this age group was 20 percent of California voters.

“I certainly believe that the story line of this elections the power of ethnic voters, and that younger voters turned out in high numbers,” DiCamillo said. “It has to do with the governor [specifically Gov. Brown's campaign for Prop. 30] and online registration [which went into effect in September and has so far been used mostly by young Californians]…. But I can’t believe the 27 percent. That’s a huge number. To move the needle one full percentage point is a big thing, to move it seven or eight points is beyond credibility.” Continue reading

How Young Voters Can Surprise You

San Francisco State University student Dariel Maxwell discusses the election with KQED's Lillian Mongeau. Photo by Ian Hill/KQED.

by Ian Hill and Lillian Mongeau

“I don’t know much about the candidates.” “I haven’t been following the races.”  ”I’m not really able to talk about the election.”

Typically, those were the responses we first heard when we approached students on Bay Area college campuses for the “Voices of Young Voters” project where we interviewed potential voters between the ages of 18 and 29 about politics, the election and the role of government in their lives.

When students told us they hadn’t been following the election, we pushed them a little bit. We said we wanted to hear from a variety of students, not just those with an interest in politics.

That’s when they would often surprise us.

We found that many of the 50 students we interviewed were well-informed on the challenges facing the country. They had educated opinions on topics ranging from healthcare to youth obesity to immigration, and they were passionate about many issues. Even those who insisted they “knew nothing” about the election had clearly spent time thinking about what they thought the government should and shouldn’t be doing. Continue reading

Voice of a Young Voter: How Much is Too Much National Security?

An estimated 46 million eligible voters in this year’s election are between 18 and 29 years old – part of the Millennial generation. Will those young voters sway the election? What issues do young people feel are important? What role do they think government should play in their lives?

KQED and three other public media organizations on the West Coast are exploring those questions in a series called “Voices of Young Voters.” We fanned out to college campuses around the Bay Area to hear from those who are just coming of age politically.

Tatiana McBraun

Young voters have a unique perspective on national security. Those younger than 30 were children or teenagers on Sept. 11 and grew up hearing about terrorist threats. But Tatiana McBraun, a political science major at San Jose State, recently told KQED’s Lillian Mongeau she feels too much security can be a bad thing.

McBraun also discussed her religion, and noted that while she and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are both Mormon, it doesn’t mean he has her vote.

I think (the candidates) place too much importance on security. They’re always collecting information from us and I don’t know why. For example, going to the airport and not wanting to go through the screening process, and then oh, I’m a bad person because I don’t support security.

I just wish we had a little more freedom as citizens because I feel like slowly but surely our liberties are kind of being taken away from us.

I’m Mormon and a lot of people think that just because you’re Mormon, you’re going to vote for a Mormon president, but I don’t necessarily feel that he is the best of the two candidates.

When I think about Romney and I think about international relations, I couldn’t picture him going overseas and conducting business with them and them relating to him. So, I’m going to go for Barack Obama Because…I still believe that he can make changes slowly but surely.

Click play on the audio clip below to hear Tatiana McBraun.

Voice of a Young Voter: A Former Foster Youth Driven to Fix the System

Kashawna Williams

An estimated 46 million eligible voters in this year’s election are between 18 and 29 years old – part of the Millennial generation. Will those young voters sway the election? What issues do young people feel are important? What role do they think government should play in their lives?

KQED and three other public media organizations on the West Coast are exploring those questions in a series called “Voices of Young Voters.” We fanned out to college campuses around the Bay Area to hear from those who are just coming of age politically. Over the next few days we’ll share some of their stories.

Lillian Mongeau spoke to Kashawna Williams, an administrative justice major at Ohlone College in Fremont. She grew up in the foster system and says it needs fixing…

I just know that in this day and time, the only experience I have really, like, seen, has really been bad. Because I just seen a lot of like, shortages, in a lot of things that we need nowadays.

I’m emancipated foster youth, and even those sections from those things have been cut. So there’s a lot of things that they’re touching that people need out here to survive. And taking it from the people that need it and giving it to the people that don’t need it. Like, you know?
I had a major experience with back and forth to different homes and courts and trials. That’s why I’m majoring in administrative justice right now because I feel there’s something in that system that needs to be fixed. And I don’t know what it is. That’s why I’m studying to see, where is the shortage at?

Click play on the audio clip to hear Kashawna Williams

Voice of a Young Voter: Ross Rothpanhar On Appreciating Government Services

An estimated 46 million eligible voters in this year’s election are between 18 and 29 years old – part of the Millennial generation. Will those young voters sway the election? What issues do young people feel are important? What role do they think government should play in their lives?

KQED and three other public media organizations on the West Coast are exploring those questions in a series called “Voices of Young Voters.” We fanned out to college campuses around the Bay Area to hear from those who are just coming of age politically. Over the next few days we’ll share some of their stories.

Ross Rothpanhar

Ross Rothpanhar

by Lillian Mongeau

Ross Rothpanhar is a public health major at University of California, Berkeley. He says growing up poor made him appreciate government services.

So, I am Cambodian American. My parents are actually refugees from Cambodia. Growing up, we weren’t really privileged as like other Americans. We were overshadowed a lot, especially with the model minority myth where like, Asians excel.

People assume we do not need resources, but in fact my family needed a lot of resources. For a long period of time my family lived under the poverty line, and we are still barely at the poverty line right now. So the government systems to help people who do need the assistance is really vital.

Growing up and coming through the educational system, it’s really hard for me, a person like me to come to Cal. I was really fortunate to come to Cal. I had to go through a lot of obstacles and a lot of barriers and I had to go out and find a lot of resources myself instead of having resources come to me. I think government should focus on helping a lot more people that have been overshadowed and not very focused on.

Will Millennials Have a Big Impact on the Election? Yes, No and Maybe

San Francisco State University student Sonya Soltani writes "To Have a Voice!" on a backpack that asks "Why Vote?" Ian Hill/KQED.

An estimated 46 million eligible voters in this year’s election are between 18 and 29 years old – part of the Millennial generation. Will those young voters sway the election? What issues do young people feel are important? What role do they think government should play in their lives? KQED and three other public media organizations on the West Coast are exploring those questions in a series called “Voices of Young Voters.” We fanned out to college campuses around the Bay Area to hear from those who are just coming of age politically.

Continue reading

The Military, Public Schools and the DMV: How Government Shapes the Opinions of College Students

University of California, Berkeley students protest on campus in 2011. Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images

An estimated 46 million eligible voters in this year’s election are between 18 and 29 years old – part of the Millennial generation. Will those young voters sway the election? What issues do young people feel are important? What role do they think government should play in their lives? KQED and three other public media organizations on the West Coast are exploring those questions in a series called “Voices of Young Voters.” We fanned out to college campuses around the Bay Area to hear from those who are just coming of age politically.

Nathan Bickart

Nathan Bickart knows it could have been worse.

“Growing up in Marin County, the public schools are incredibly well-funded, and so I’ve had really positive experiences,” said Bickart, 21, of Mill Valley. “But I know that there’s inequality in terms of access to the kind of education I was given.

“I was taking a few education classes (in college) where we like worked in schools in Oakland and in Richmond, and obviously they’re not as well-funded and well off,” said Bickart, who is now a student at the University of California, Berkeley.

Experiences like those have helped shape the opinions of Bickart and other young people weighing political issues this election year. KQED recently asked students at five Bay Area colleges to describe their experiences with government; the stories they shared ranged from serving in the military to waiting in line at the DMV to receiving federal grants to help pay for college. Continue reading

Voices of Young Voters

Photo by Ian Hill/KQED

An estimated 46 million eligible voters in this year’s election are between 18 and 29 years old – part of the Millennial generation. Will those young voters sway the election? What issues do young people feel are important? What role do they think government should play in their lives? KQED and three other public media organizations on the West Coast are exploring those questions in a series called “Voices of Young Voters.” We fanned out to college campuses around the Bay Area to hear from those who are just coming of age politically.

Check out what they said in these posts. You can also listen to their comments in the audio at bottom. Continue reading

Answer 3 Questions on the Role of Government in America

KQED's Lillian Mongeau interviews San Jose State University student Dariel Maxwell.

There’s a conversation going on in America this election year about what we want and don’t want from our government. You hear it in the presidential race when Republican Mitt Romney talks about cutting taxes and getting government regulations out of the way so that business owners will create jobs and investors will stimulate the economy. You also can hear it when President Barack Obama, a Democrat, talks about using tax dollars for education and economic stimulus, as well as when he discusses regulations to protect the environment and rein in Wall Street.

On taxes, public spending, the social safety net and other issues, Americans are taking part in the discussion and demonstrating that they have some real philosophical differences with each other about the role of government in this country. For its “Voices of Young Voters” project, KQED interviewed more than 50 students from Bay Area colleges to get their opinions on government in America. Now we want to know where you stand in this debate.

Take a few moments and answer the questions below. Your answers may help inform KQED’s election coverage and be used online or on air. Continue reading

4 Issues Bay Area College Students are Concerned About This Election Year

Students talk with campaign volunteers at a recent San Francisco State University voter rally. Ian Hill/KQED

Students talk with campaign volunteers at a recent San Francisco State University voter rally. Ian Hill/KQED

An estimated 46 million eligible voters in this year’s election are between 18 and 29 years old – part of the Millennial generation. Will those young voters sway the election? What issues do young people feel are important? What role do they think government should play in their lives? KQED and three other public media organizations on the West Coast are exploring those questions in a series called “Voices of Young Voters.” We fanned out to college campuses around the Bay Area to hear from those who are just coming of age politically.

Post also by Lillian Mongeau

Alyssa Lopez remembers the pink slips.

“My mom is currently a principal at an elementary school and my dad served on the school board back in my hometown so I just remember seeing a lot of budget cuts going on,” said Lopez, 20, a Modesto native who is now a student at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park. “A lot of great teachers that everybody loved were just getting cut from schools, pink slips, and I remember a lot of kids were just being like, ‘This sucks. I love that teacher.’”

The result, Lopez said, was that many of her classmates were scared away from pursuing careers in education. She said she now worries that there is a lack of good teachers and that students aren’t going to receive the education they need to be informed citizens.

Her concerns about education were among many voiced to KQED recently when we asked students at five Bay Area colleges about the issues that are important to them this election year. In a recent survey of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, the nonpartisan think tank Generation Opportunity found that respondents considered a candidate’s position on issues and his record in office more important than charisma or likeability when it comes to choosing a president.

Here are four of the issues that came up most often in our conversations with college students. Continue reading