College students describe their political concerns

By Jamie Patrick Chandler
The New York Times
November 7, 2004 Sunday

COLLEGE students may be the hot demographic for politicians, but they're a tough group for pollsters to track down. The reason is simple: most lack the home phone number needed for random sampling. To get a sense of what the cellphone generation is thinking, Education Life conducted face-to-face interviews in October at 10 campuses: Princeton, Harvard, Ohio State University, Baylor University (Waco, Tex.), University of Texas at Austin, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of California at Santa Barbara, University of Illinois at Chicago and City University of New York-City College.

Interviewers questioned 112 women and 121 men, freshmen to seniors. The students were asked what personal and political issues mattered most to them, about the war in Iraq and about long-term job prospects. In general, they were a hopeful bunch; more than 80 percent were optimistic about their futures. The looming exception was jobs, which more than 40 percent thought would be hard to find after graduation.

Students were asked what the president should focus on first. These issues were mentioned most: The New York Times Jamie Patrick Chandler is an adjunct lecturer in American politics at the City University of New York.

  • 1. Education/tuition
  • 2. Iraq
  • 3. Economy
  • 4. Career/job prospects
  • 5. College studies
  • 6. Draft
  • 7. Environment
  • 9. Morality/gay marriage
  • 10. Health care
  • 11. Civil liberties/rights
  • 12. National security
  • 13. College life
  • 14. Presidential leadership
  • 15. Women's issues
  • 16. Foreign policy
  • 17. Terrorism
  • 18. No worries
  • 19. Ennui
  • 20. Immigration

The issues that concern me most are those surrounding inequality and personal freedom; i.e., homosexual civil union, Patriot Act, crime, poverty and corporate crime.'' - Jason Kinney, 18 University of Georgia

"The decline in morality and increasing liberality. Is that a word? Liberalness, maybe. - Jasmine Dowell, 19 Harvard

"I worry most about the economy and the employment rate. I worry that all my money spent on college might be wasted.'' - Dionysios Tsalcalis, 26 Ohio State University

"Rising tuition cost because of insufficient federal funding.'' - Linda Do, 20 University of Texas at Austin

"I think that eventually it will get to a draft. The way we struggle to keep control in Iraq, the way we keep dedicating military power around the world, more people will be needed. The prospect of a draft is a political tool.'' - Jeff Krisko, 18 University of California at Santa Barbara

"I am currently an engineering major, and I don't want to have my job handed to someone in another country just so companies can increase profit. It happened with computer science. It can happen to engineering." - Urribarri Abhay, 17 CUNY-City College

"As a double major in economics and political science, the issue that worries me the most would have to be the subpar operation of the Federal Reserve in that it has kept the prime rate too low for too long, thereby creating the potential for hyperinflation.'' - Joseph Siegrist, 21 Ohio State University

"First, kill the terrorists before they kill me. Second, the meltdown of our culture due to the idea of relativism. - Mark Roehrenbeck, 22 Ohio State University

"Speaking up more during discussions. Getting to class on time, especially when I have only 10 minutes between classes. Time management. - Angie Nguyen, 18 University of California at Santa Barbara

"I'm a pretty free-go-lucky guy. I'm not really worried.'' - Sam Yoffe, 19 University of Florida

"I feel that most Americans are so uninvolved with the political aspect of their lives. They're complacent with others deciding for them and then ultimately deciding for me. That's alarming.'' - Kimberly Blitch, 18 University of Georgia

"Please think about education! Wars, terrorism, whatever -- do that on your own time, Mr. Pres. - Travis Moak, 22 University of Georgia

"Education is the key to helping solve problems in the world, such as global warming, globalization, gene therapy and cultural toleration. Equalizing the opportunity for education to all should be the president's No. 1 issue. Education should not be last on the list when it comes to budget expense and first on the list when it comes to budget cuts. - Jill Smiley, 21 Ohio State University

"Medical care. I don't have health insurance. I don't have a job either, and I don't have financial aid. I have a baby and a husband who is working 14 to 16 hours a day so that he can support us." - Celina Mejia CUNY-City College

"Some immigrants, like myself, have to pay for other's broken dishes. Post 9/11, many doors of opportunity have closed on immigrants, thus making things difficult in reaching the goals we came here to achieve." - Hector Camarillo, 19 CUNY-City College