"Who are you voting for?"
This is the question constantly being asked on campus as the 2016 presidential election comes closer and closer. But many of our responses have resorted to, "I don't really know," or "I don't like any of them, I'm moving to Canada!" In a poll I conducted to a sample size of 142 students (NOTE: this is a very small SAMPLE of students. This does not accurately represent the opinions of all college students, but it's just meant to get a bit of perspective for the sake of this article) who have cast their opinion on Twitter and Facebook, 32% of students polled have a definite candidate they support, 31% of students polled are unsure about which political candidate to choose, and 37% of students polled just don't like the crop of candidates we have this year. This is pretty interesting data, as it's all almost evenly split into thirds--but whichever group you fall into, here is what you can do instead of skipping out on one of the most pivotal elections of our decade.
1. Watch the Debates
This sounds harder than it actually is. Watching the debates for both the Democratic and Republican parties can be incredibly useful. You hear straight from the politicians what they believe through their immediate responses, so in about 2 hours you can get a pretty good gist of what the candidates believe and how they intend to implement those ideas. Probably one of the most important things, in my opinion, that you can also take away from these debates is the personality of the candidate. You can see who is a good competitor like someone who is quick on their feet and decisive, or you can see how they treat the other candidates--is it just from the heat of the competition or are they really just that malicious? The great thing about debate watching is that you can develop all these opinions for yourself without the influence of media bias.
*Note: Do listen closely to the questions asked of the debaters for two reasons--first, to see if the candidate actually answers the question, and second, to make a judgment of whether this is a fair and realistic question.
2. Utilize the web
Congratulations, you're doing this right now by reading this article! Go pat yourself on the back--by reading articles such as the ones published on FreshU, you can get the facts you want in a nice detailed explanation with a perspective from writers that are your age (Scroll to the bottom of this article to check out Fresh U's political coverage). And then you can utilize so many other sources. For example, Project Vote Smart is an incredibly user friendly site that has multiple resources you can use, such as a quick 15 question survey of your opinions on the major political issues to help you find which political candidate is most aligned with your values; this goes for Presidential candidates as well as congressional candidates, who are NOT to be forgotten! It also gives excellent information on the issues, candidates' biographies, speeches they have given, and their overall ratings. This is your one-stop shop for educating yourself on politics. If you also want to see how a candidate is standing in the polls or just straight information without the "edgy-fun" website design, go to Real Clear Politics--it's literally what it says it is; or try On The Issues.
3. Take a Poli-Sci Class
We all are required to take gen ed courses (classes such as English, History, a science lab, etc. that are for your "general education"--see what they did there?) at our colleges and universities across the country. So, why not take one that will be super useful, like a political science course? Many of these general education courses can hold valuable information about current events, especially when they are geared towards politics. Take the chance to knock out some college credits while educating yourself on how the government really works and what politicians are trying to do with it. Through these classes you are also gaining access to Political Science Professors, who are undoubtedly full of advice and information that I'm sure they are just waiting to blurt out to any student that asks.
4. Join a Club that Has Political Influence
These things may seem intimidating at first, but this is something I highly recommend. The best way to understand something is to completely immerse yourself into the culture of that subject/topic. So put yourself out there and join a club that affiliates with a specific political party, a debate team or political debate show sponsored by your campus, your campus newspaper, etc. Joining these types of clubs and organizations help you become more invested in the material beyond the classroom and the computer screen, as well as letting you be exposed to others people's opinions which may help mold your own.
I hope you can take away some ideas on how to educate yourself on political candidates and issues that are relevant in today's culture. With the use of sites such as Project Vote Smart helping you choose a political candidate to vote for most similar to your beliefs, you can potentially overcome your dislike for that candidate; by joining clubs and organizations on your campus with political influence, you can educate yourself and learn from others. And just by watching the debates on TV or live streamed through your computer, you really can get a feel for how the candidate is as a person. Do not just ignore this revolutionary election for 2016--by doing so, it will only have negative repercussions on the American society as a whole. Our generation has the potential to yield incredible influence in our country's future for the next 4 to maybe 8 years.
So get out and vote! But make sure you know what you're voting for, first.
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Lead Image Credit: Fox News