Political parties court different demographics, and one crucial group of voters includes young people. Many have the chance to vote in their first presidential election this year. College students studying media at the University of Sioux Falls are watching the presidential race, and they’re learning to balance their journalism training with their Constitutional rights.
Men and women in the USF media program are observing politics and participating in a straw poll. The latest tally shows some people shifted their support in the wake of Monday night’s presidential debate. USF is a private, Baptist-based college.
The first round of not-so-scientific voting started last week prior to the debate. In the two media classes Donald Trump got seven votes; Hillary Clinton received 10. Libertarian Gary Johnson bested both of them with 13 votes.
Student Westly Johnson says he supports the Libertarian.
“One because we have the same last name, but I think I’ve also read a good amount of information about him on Facebook. I know that’s not really a reliable source, but his stances just happen to fall into what I believe a little bit better than the other two. I also don’t think the other two are very, um… I just think they’re a little corrupt from what I’ve seen, but everyone has their own personal opinions,” Johnson says. “I don’t think I can trust either one of the two. I don’t want my family to have to deal with that sort of thing or my future family to have to deal with those sort of things.”
But Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson lost some support in the second vote. USF Student Grant Sweeter says he originally voted for Johnson, but Monday’s debate swayed his opinion. Now Sweeter votes for Trump.
"He responded with an answer of how he is going to fix or right whatever the issue is, and he also, at the same time, was taking blows from Hillary Clinton, who just constantly would call out Donald Trump for something that he did wrong, and he wouldn’t lash back at her. He’d say what he thought or whatever," Sweeter says. "So I think, because of his professionalism as of last night, I think Donald Trump changed my vote."
Sweeter admits his initial vote for Johnson was partially a placeholder until he saw enough from Trump. Classmate Whitney Fryer says she also switched her vote from Gary Johnson, but hers now goes to Hillary Clinton.
"I feel like she’s more presidential when it comes down to it. I don’t know. When I see Trump – at least what I have seen in the past is – Trump kind of tends to, he gets on camera and asks childish," Fryer says. "He’s said a lot of very inappropriate things on camera that he shouldn’t have, and I feel like she comes off as being more presidential. And she has more of the background in politics, whereas Trump doesn’t, and that kind of worries me."
Fryer says she supported Bernie Sanders in the primary, so she’s casting her vote based on policy in addition to personality. She says that’s better than not voting for anyone.
USF Media Studies chair Gerry Schlenker impresses this upon his class. As he distributes and collects their ballots, Schlenker reminds the college students that their participation is crucial.
"Historically you realize that there are people in this world who are still dying for the right to vote, and one of the great unfortunate ironies of American democratic process is that too many of us are neglecting that right and choosing not to vote because of cynicism or worse," Schlenker says.
These students say that’s the attitude some of their friends have. They say they hear people saying they’re not going to vote because it doesn’t matter or they don’t like their choices. Jacob Van Engen is one voter who is not satisfied with his options, but he’s not sacrificing his voice, either.
"Every single time that I mark the candidate that I would vote for at this point, there’s just a little part of me that dies, and I’m serious because I don’t like any of the candidates," Van Engen says. "But what I end up doing is I think in my mind, ‘Okay, in this particular election, I’m not actually going to vote for the candidate. I’m going to vote from my party and trust that my party is going to do their part.’"
Students cast ballots for many reasons, and the updated tally is this: media students polled at the University of Sioux Falls choose Donald Trump with a total of 14 votes. Gary Johnson falls to second place with 10 votes. Hillary Clinton is third with eight votes, and Jill Stein trails with three votes.