By Bijoyeta Das
Special to the Reporter
She would rather vote for Tina Fey than for
Sarah Palin, said Erin O'Connell, a UMass-Boston
student and first time voter. But she is excited to
be able to cast her ballot in the "most historical"
election in her lifetime.
O'Connell is among many youth who are
registering in record numbers to vote in an
election that she says will affect everyone,
especially the youth. At UMass-Boston, 1,300 voters
have been registered through a drive led by the
Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.
The presidential election is the most discussed
subject in classrooms and leads to many heated
debates in cafeterias.
"It is the number one topic in school," said
Jahangir Rehman, a Psychology major at UMass-
Even as conversations tend to be in favor of
Obama, "I haven't felt that it is necessary to
defend my views," said Jayne Rodman, a senior at
Suffolk University, who works in Dorchester. "I
feel they are choosing Obama because everybody is
Rodman, who is voting for McCain, said, "But I
do feel odd." She said she knows only one
Republican at Suffolk University.
"A lot of kids don't know much about politics,"
said Dorchester's Patrick Ross, 18, a senior at
Boston Latin Academy. They say McCain is not fit to
be president because he is old, he said.
Everyone in school is voting for Obama, Ross
says, but he prefers McCain.
"I sit back. I know what my beliefs are and
don't try to enforce them on others," Ross
Presidential debates were also an opportunity
for many to "hang out" with their friends and watch
"At UMass, some 50 to 60 kids got together to
watch the debates," said 19 year-old Rehman.
It is easier to see the differences among the
candidate's policies and personalities during the
debates, and this helps to make an educated choice,
Illeana Adamez, 20, said. "The debates have a lot
of rhetoric, but also help reveal the candidates
When it comes to choosing a president a number
of factors are at play. Leadership qualities of a
candidate are important to many but their stand on
national issues is the deciding factor. Economy,
taxation, Iraq War, health care and education, are
the most important issues that first time voters
are considering while choosing the president.
"Obama speaks to the youth," said O'Connell, 21,
an English major at UMass-Boston. For her, the
Illinois senator's multicultural heritage is
refreshing. "He is for the middle class, while
McCain stands for the upper class."
Rodman, who said she is more conservative as a
person, finds Obama's association with ex-terrorist
William Ayers "definitely suspicious."
Sarah Palin's $150,000 wardrobe is extravagant
and use of state funds for her family's travel
shows she is not responsible, said Rehman.
"I am afraid for the country, because she is not
He supports Obama's plan to pull the troops out
of Iraq, is looking forward reforms in the
education policies. "I am afraid of how the economy
will affect tuition and student loans."
On national issues, first time voters get their
information from a wide range of sources-New York
Times, Boston Globe, ABC, and Fox News. But most of
them constantly update themselves on election news
by going online. Videos on YouTube and political
blogs are also top sources. Many eagerly wait for
NBC's Saturday Night Live.
To get international feedback and perspective on
the elections, Adamez, a political science graduate
at UMass, reads Le Monde, a French daily
"Here you don't realize how big it is 'til you
see how everyone in the world is talking about it,"
However, there are many who say the media
coverage is biased. It tends to be racist towards
Obama and sexist when it comes to Hillary Clinton
and Sarah Palin.
"If a man with five kids is running for
president they won't be asking if he will be able
to handle the job," said Rodman. But Fox News is as
fair as it can be, she said. "It is not as bad as
The media coverage is negative, said O'Connell.
"Obama is underrated."
Many newly registered voters' say that the
campaign run by both McCain and Obama is neither
racist nor sexist, but is more about "attacking the
"McCain is talking not about what he stands for
but what Obama stands for or not and it applies to
Obama's campaign too," said 18 year-old Matthew
Flynn, a student at Assumption College at
Friends and family may have influenced the youth
to register. But when it comes to choosing the
president first time voters feel "confident" in
making their own decisions.
"I have many debates and discussions with my
father who is very politically conscious, but I
would still be a democrat if my father were a
republican, because I identify with democratic
principles," said Erin O'Connell.
It is a "privilege" to vote, she said. "If you
do not vote you got no right to complain."
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