For many college students, this will be their first time placing their votes in a presidential election. For others it will be their first time voting entirely.
In the 2000 Presidential election, the youth voting rate spiked 12 percentage points, and, with the deciding role the youth vote played in the 2008 election, both candidates are vying to win this demographic.
It’s clear that we hold an astounding amount of power in this year’s race, yet 36 percent of college students remain undecided.
Do 36 percent of us truly not know where we stand on important issues?
Studies show that the college demographic is most concerned with issues about the economy, health care, education and social issues. Specifically for the women of Stephens College, issues regarding women’s rights and education should be on our radar.
So where do the candidates stand on these issues? Who will represent our values and demographic best?
The issue has been a hot topic issue all year.
In February, a comment made by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh made national headlines when he called a female student at Georgetown University a “slut” for speaking on the limitations of obtaining contraceptives at the Catholic institution because of the Conscience Clause of the Constitution. More recently, the comments of Missouri republican candidate for Senate, Todd Akin (R-St. Louis), regarding the legitimacy of rape and argument that nonviolent rape is less likely to result in unwanted pregnancy, which has also catapulted the issue of women’s rights into the political limelight.
One of the first bills that President Barack Obama signed into law is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which protects women from earning less pay than their male counterparts for doing the same job. The platform of the Democratic Party specifically includes a section regarding the rights of women, including a vow to combat discrimination in the workplace. They recognize the woman’s right to determine her own reproductive choices and support access to affordable family planning services.
Comments from Republicans like Akin and Limbaugh give credence to claims that Republicans are waging a “War on Women.” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the majority of the Republican Party support so-called traditional family values. Add to the fact that the pro-life stance typical of the Republican Party, holding the view that life begins at conception.
The Conservatives in Congress passed bills that barred funding for programs like Planned Parenthood and Title X, organizations that provide cervical cancer screenings, birth control and other preventive care to women.
Still, Republicans in Congress do support foster care and adoption services for families as alternatives to abortions.
According to numerous polls, social issues follow the economy as the second most important thing voters consider when choosing which presidential candidate to support. Gay rights, gun laws, and issues on immigration are central to this year’s election.
The Democratic Party includes in its platform full support of equal rights for all citizens. Gun rights are recognized as an integral American right but Democrats officially believe that owning firearms should be subjected to reasonable restrictions.
The Republican Party platform focuses on protecting traditional values, while embracing the principle that all Americans should be treated with dignity and respect. Still, conservative values often take precedence over progressive views. These values include defining marriage as between a man and a woman, a pro-life approach to childbirth and pregnancy and full support of the second amendment.
Both candidates agree about the importance of education. Still, in the first presidential debate there was not nearly as much airtime regarding education than there was the economy and taxes. The lack of discussion does not detract from the importance of education policy and the potential affect of student financial aid.
Both candidates agree that something must be done to restrain the rising costs of education. Obama plans to reward colleges for their affordability and their retention rates. He has said that he will cut tuition inflation by more than half in the next decade but has not specified how he plans to do this. He does, however, plan to make the American Opportunity Tax Credit a permanent policy and preserve the Pell Grant program.
Romney has said that he believes that increases in federal student aid have missed the cost of college as a whole. He will likely cut student aid spending by repealing several education initiatives enacted by Obama that attempted to lower tuition. Romney has also shown support for private lenders in making new federal education loans.
This year’s election has been dubbed the “most important election of our time.” October 10 is the last day to register to vote in the state of Missouri. If college students all over America realized the power their opinions carry, they could directly impact its outcome.
To help make your decision, several sites offer resources to undecided voters. Among them is ElectNext.com, which is a site that allows you to take a short quiz about the policies you are most concerned about. It personalizes those opinions about policy and matches voters to candidates at the federal, state and local level.