Millennial generation’s feature prominent role in the 2012 presidential election

Talk from news sources has spurred comments that the current generation of eighteen to twenty-nine year olds—called “Millennials”—will determine the future President of the United States for the next four years. ‘This Presidential Election is the most important election of our generation,” said Frank Klapak, professor of communication, in a recent class.

But, truly, how will this election influence our opportunities in the job market, our values, and the overall nature of the U.S. economy? Millennials are the future leaders of the United States. Topics like health care, education, and unemployment are the most repetitive concerns among the variety of students and recent graduates interviewed. However, these Millennials seemed to shy away from discussing controversial topics like abortion, gun control, and stem cell research—where, perhaps, they are undecided.

This generation of college students, recent graduates, and those who have recently entered the job market, has access to information at their fingertips, especially with the technological boom of the last decade. Colleen Fisher mentions that our generation, in comparison to other generations, then is presented with the opportunity to “vote as an informed citizen.”

Sarah Klawinski, junior secondary education and history major at Slippery Rock University, believes that social media platforms and Internet information are the main basis for our decisions. “The news can only say so much, but I know that I (and many other students) follow the candidates on Twitter and read what we can about the election every day. I think it makes us much more informed, better voters.”

However, Klawinski noted that their can be a downside to Twitter information. “It also makes us disrespect the candidates, though. Everything is very casual on the Internet as opposed to television and newspapers.”

Yet, a number of interviewed students feel obliged to vote simply because it is a basic right within the United States. “It (the election) will affect me in almost every way, in things like jobs, health care and loans. This election will determine how the U.S. will be run for the next four years. This motivates me to vote, because I have the freedom to place a vote and try to elect who I will feel is the best leader for our country. It makes me feel as if my say is important and my vote counts,” said junior elementary and special education major, Emily Hardy.

Many college student Millennials, are first-time voters who seem motivated to make use of their new-found rights. Currently, decisions being made by the government affect “constitutional rights that our country was founded upon,” said Brandy Nickoloff, Grove City sophomore and pre-law major. “Now, we should exercise our right to vote. We have the privilege to do so, if for no other reason.”

Not all interviewed students were encouraged to cast a vote on November 6. When asked if Millennials’ votes matter this election, Jacob Hetu, junior biomedical engineering technology major at Penn State said, “It (the election) affects our financial aid and loans. Still, I’m really not motivated to vote, because I refuse to vote and settle for the lesser of two evils.” However, Lauren Rootham, Seton Hill alumnus, believes that voting matters when you have certain things that you believe in. Still, young voters must “realize that both sides are capable of changes and shortfalls and we shouldn’t focus on hating the other side because of their agendas,” said Rootham, a human resource and marketing major.

A number of students explained that their voting is influenced by future job opportunities. Economic factors play a noticeable role in recent and soon-to-be graduates’ election opinions, according to former Seton Hill students Chloe Sparr, Lauren Peightel, and Rootham.

Sparr, a previous human resource and marketing student, stated, “Being that I work in HR, it is very important to have jobs to fill and fill them with the correct people. This does motivate me to vote.”

Similarly, Rootham wrote in an email that being an “educated voter” is important. “Now that we are starting to be at an employable age, our government’s actions really affect us. Their decisions (presidential, judicial & congressional) affect our paychecks, health care, freedoms and neighbors. This does motivate me to vote now, versus last election, because I feel like I have something to contribute to society and I should have some say in what happens in this country.”

Peightel majored in art history and entrepreneurial studies as a Seton Hill student last year. In relation to her field of study, the election holds high significance. “It’s important for me to vote because funding cuts to the cultural arts is eliminating my career opportunities. While I agree it is necessary to cut budgets to re-prioritize what is of most importance, over-cutting will hurt us more.”

Peightel’s business background plays a role in her voting decisions, as well. “In business simulations in college, every decision we made was most emphasized positively when we put heavy money into training and development of the people. We need to invest in education, product and service development, small businesses, and clean energy to place our country back in a place of healthy competition. We can’t afford to be in any other position.”

Among science majors interviewed, the fact that we have the opportunity to vote and vote intelligently based upon readily available information was key. “I think our vote matters because we, more than any generation, have the ability to be informed, stay updated, and be vocal about our opinions. We have the responsibility not just to vote, but also to vote responsibly and be informed,” said senior chemistry and secondary education major at St. Vincent College, Colleen Fisher.

Elizabeth Rosenberger, senior pharmacy major at LECOM School of Pharmacy, seems to mimic Fisher’s comment concerning our generation. “As citizens, we have the responsibility to vote, but I feel that our generation, as a whole, needs to become more aware of political issues and matters at hand.” Rosenberger believes that the two greatest issues for the college demographic include “the job market and educational loans.”

Another recurring factor promoting voting among those interviewed across Western Pennsylvania colleges is the correlation to specific career paths and job outlooks for the upcoming years. According to Rosenberger, the election will affect not only the job market but her ability to repay her student loans from pharmacy school. “I hope that the job market continues to expand for young college graduates and interest payments on loans remain low. As a future pharmacist, the election is also important because of the health care issue. I believe it is extremely important for all citizens of the United States to be granted health care and coverage regardless of race, socioeconomic status, etc.”

Fisher commented on the election in relationship to her education major. “As a future teacher, I would benefit from decisions that I don’t necessarily feel are best for American students and my voting will reflect that. I think that a lot of our civil liberties are at stake in this election and the results will determine whether or not certain trends will continue in our government or if we as a country will make the changes that need to be made.” This serves as the primary motivation for Fisher to vote and actively participate in this presidential election.

Peightel addresses her concern with falsification of facts by the media, a platform accessible to all Millennials with whom I have interviewed. “Media drastically warps everything. Your vote for or against anyone should not be based on ads or even the debates. Try iVote through Facebook. It lists all the major issues for the election and asks you your stance, but also how strongly you feel about all of them. It tells you a percentage to a candidate of how much you agree.” Such statistics, according to Peightel, have notably influenced the way in which her friends were planning to vote, who then changed their minds after researching the facts.

According to Nickoloff, paying frequent attention to debates, press releases, and news updates is helpful for voting informed. She is also an avid supporter of voting, in general. “If we do not take a stand we will move towards socialism, and regress from the great country that we are. Our freedoms are being taken away,” Nickoloff stated.

A recurring theme among Millennial interviewees is the importance of being an “educated” voter. The correlation of the future President and our future careers is a distinctly popular subject among these students. Peightel further stated in an email, “I think it’s incredibly important for our generation to vote but ONLY if you are educated enough on the issues and party’s true facts. We’re preparing for our careers, but also how to take care of ourselves via health insurance, retirement, and how to help our future families. It’s important to know what can affect you.”

“Yes, the election is important for our generation because we will be electing the leader for our future and everything they do will affect us in our future,” commented Hardy. When questioned if Millennial voting was purposeful, Sparr stated, “It is our right and responsibility as a citizen.”

Every person interviewed agreed that this election would affect him or her in some way—positive or negative. Klawinski thinks that our votes will influence the election based on the promise of new jobs, as many college students are worried that graduation will greet us with “no job prospects.” Klawinski also raised a concern among the Millennial voters by stating that many people simply “don’t care” and should care, “because they have a hand in helping to decide the future of our country. It is very important to take advantage of our right to vote.”

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