Do Students Care About Midterm Elections?

The U.S. media made a big deal over Tuesday’s midterm elections.  Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats and seriously eroded their Senate majority, in what was seen as a referendum on both Obama’s first two years and the viability of the conservative “Tea Party.”  But did students get involved?  How did college campuses, around the world a common home of political activism, respond to the elections?  And what is a U.S. election like as an international student?

At Indiana University, international students said they didn’t feel the midterm elections were relevant for them, or that they didn’t understand the process.  Sebastian says political activity in the U.S. feels very different than in his home country, Bolivia, although he’s not sure which is better.  Senzeni says U.S. elections are much more peaceful than votes in Zimbabwe, where she’s from.

Here are some more views on the election from our bloggers:

Tara Cheng
I have to admit I am a outsider on political issues. Even in China, I almost totally do not care about who will be the next president or premier. For what reasons? Maybe I think the president candidates are way too far from my daily life. But it is funny that if I feel them far away from me, since I was living in the capital of China – how must people living in other cities in China feel?

USC appears frequently in American movies and TV shows, so we SCers have got used to see camera equipment in the buildings where we are taking class and limos around campus. No one will look at them twice. But before the elections, President Obama truly rocked USC, attracting thousands of students to fight over getting even a little closer to him. Some students even waited in the line starting at 3am to get a great view. All the TV screens on campus or at off-campus apartments were tuned to Obama’s speech.  USC students were posting pictures, status updates and comments about Obama’s showing up to Facebook and Twitter on a minute basis.

It was the first time I felt that there is indeed a person who is able to gather most students together, no matter what ethnicity they are and where they come from. One of my Chinese friends took hundreds of pictures on the whole event, even of the secret service officers! I do not know if it is the charisma of Obama that got USC crazy, or if other presidents and candidates could create that much buzz as well. Anyway, it is great to have some charming politicians to rock the campus and if they can get voted as well, it would be more than awesome.

Nareg Seferian
I study in a small, liberal arts college, where students often have their noses in books, rather than in newspapers. We do have a politically-active segment of the student population, however, and there were some huddled around a television on the evening of the 2nd. In the weeks running up to the election, there were students with forms to register voters, and even one or two who skipped out on activities due to elections-related diversions on the day, such as, perhaps, voting.

Due to the fact that my family moved more than once, I have never actually voted in my life. I was an elections observer in Armenia once, a few years ago, so that’s been my only immediate exposure to the democratic process and the civic duties it entails.

In my experience, most elections in the world consist of foregone conclusions – whether that implies rigged votes or otherwise. It is heartening to see Americans adopt an important custom like free and fair elections, even with the country’s own institutional and political problems. I am sure we are going to hear more about gains on the right, and a movement named after a certain beverage, and all that sort of thing, but the important part is that the citizen bear the responsibility that he or she is a stakeholder in the running of the country. That’s civil society, and that’s inspirational.

Chris Wong
For a campus that’s right in the middle of Washington D.C., the elections haven’t received much attention around here.  To be sure, it’s been a topic of conversation in class and with friends, but nobody I know is too worked up about it.  The general sentiment seems to be that there isn’t much at stake (no presidential race) and that what is at stake has already been telegraphed for weeks (the Republicans taking back the House).

Jaime says that her friends shared that sentiment, writing that apathy among her college-age friends was pretty high this election cycle.