Students discuss their involvement in politics


Graphic by Nita Faulkner

By Caroline McNally, Brandon Briseno and Jesse Wulfman

Presidential campaigning season has begun and for some students, election day can’t come soon enough.

“I never thought I would be as into politics as I am now,” said junior television writing and production major Cooper Stowers. He pauses for a moment, then continues, “And now that I am, I can’t stop. We’re in for a heck of a year.”

Stowers is an example of a student fully immersed in politics and eager to vote in his first presidential election, but not all college students are as enthusiastic about politics as he is.

According to the 2012 US Census, 27.4 percent of Americans age 18 to 29 failed to participate in any form of election. In contrast, only 13.6 percent of the entire eligible U.S. voter population omitted from elections in 2012.

voter turn out

A midterm voter turn out graph created from data collected by Michael McDonald, professor of political science at the University of Florida. By Brandon Briseno

A study by Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, also shows that in 2014, eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29 had the lowest turnout rate that year since the early 1980s.

The International Business Times cited a poll from Harvard University in which 80 percent of millennials said they are not politically engaged. There is potential for young people to change the landscape of American politics, but a lot of work needs to be done before the next election in order for that to happen.

The International Business Times found that a large reason for the lack of millennial voters is a lack of education. In this day and age, it is more likely for college students to self-educate on political issues than it is for them to have discussion about current events and politics in class, unless it relates to their major.

Chapman students are multifarious in their involvement when it comes to politics. There are clubs for both major political parties: Chapman Democrats and Chapman Republicans.

Justice Crudup, a sophomore political science major, is the president of the Chapman Democrats, a political club consisting of 15 active members.


Students pose with former state senator Joe Dunn. Photo by Jesse Wulfman

When asked what the Democrats club does to stay involved in politics during the off season, Crudup said, “We work with the Chapman Republicans to host mixers, debates and voting registration drives.”

The Chapman Republicans club has about 30-40 active members, according to club president Kyle Koeller. The Republican club has similar off-season activities to the Chapman Democrats. When it comes to the candidates, the club has a variety of opinions.

“Our club does not support one candidate in particular, as we have a very diverse set of views within the party,” Koeller said.

There are many activist groups and social awareness events on campus as well. Overall, students are more vocal about social issues than foreign policies and federal laws. When approached about politics, most Chapman students know much more about the issues that apply to them than the broader topics that may not affect their lives for a few more years.

The Panther conducted a survey to ask students about their political views and opinions on a few major issues, such as funding Planned Parenthood. There were 150 responses.

political views

A graph showing political party affiliations of Chapman students. By Brandon Briseno

At Chapman University, students tend to be more liberal. Almost half of the students surveyed identify with the Democratic party. The Republican party made up about 19 percent of the surveyed group and the Independent party was 17 percent.

More than half the students surveyed said that they share the same political views as their parents. Danny Avershal, a freshman creative writing major, believes that upbringing has a major influence on political views.

“Your basis for your beliefs always comes from your parents in the beginning,” Avershal said. “Whether that changes or not as you grow up depends on schools, your teachers and what you read or see in the media.”

A Pew Research Center poll found that 61 percent of millennials get news from Facebook. In the same poll, 39 percent of the Baby Boomer generation use Facebook for news.

Pew also found that the baby boomers were the least likely group of Americans to follow news organizations on Facebook. Millennials are the most likely demographic to “like” pages for politicians, news organizations and political parties.

Many Chapman students cite social media and the internet as their main sources for news and information regarding politics.


Chapman University is home to a range of diverse political stances. By Jesse Wulfman and Brandon Briseno

Stowers is partial to The New York Times and BBC News, but said he watches Fox News for comedic purposes. He also watches “The Daily Show” and “Last Week Tonight,” which are popular shows for college students nationwide, although students acknowledge that sometimes they watch more for comedy than information.

Avershal, like Stowers, watches Fox News, but for a more balanced view of American politics. Avershal aligns himself with the Democratic party.

Another major source of information is the email newsletter The Skimm. The website’s homepage reads: “We do the reading for you and break down the latest news and information with fresh editorial content.”

Koeller, a senior political science and public relations and advertising major, said he reads The Skimm every morning to start his day. Senior kinesiology major Sydney Adams also said she enjoys The Skimm as a fast way to get news in the mornings.

Hot button issues for Chapman students are, as previously mentioned, more geared toward social issues. In the survey, legalizing marijuana was a subject that many students were passionate and well-informed about, with overwhelming support to legalize the sale and distribution of the substance.

Nationwide, the Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of young Republicans and 77 percent of young Democrats are in favor of legalizing marijuana.

According to the American College Health Association, almost 40 percent of female college students have prescriptions for oral contraceptives. The closest Planned Parenthood to the Chapman campus is located at 700 S. Tustin St. in Orange.

Nicolas Mani, a graphic design major at Chapman, said he supports the organization.  

“I think they provide a service for people who really need it,” Mani said. “It’s really awesome to see an organization that’s focused around sexual health, which is something that’s not really talked about.”

The survey also showed the issues Chapman students feel the least informed on include foreign policy (especially in the Middle East), vaccination enforcement and the American economy.

In some cases, there is an assumption that students are much more informed just because they are college students and are learning to form their own opinions. Sophomore history major Connell Murphy admits to not being as well informed as some of his peers.

“I’m definitely not very informed on any of the issues,” Murphy said. “I barely pay attention to politics, but I see things every now and then in the news that I pay attention to.”

Students also feel like they need to be more informed on the presidential candidates, but most of those who do feel informed are feeling the “Bern” and are ready to vote for Bernie Sanders should he acquire the Democratic nomination.


Student feels the “Bern.” Photo illustration by Jesse Wulfman

Stowers is a major Sanders supporter and said, “As a socialist myself, I really support Bernie Sanders’ message of having a more equal social class. Generally, everything Bernie talks about I agree with wholeheartedly. That doesn’t happen often with me and a candidate.”

It’s clear that the youth vote is critical this year. Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University, claims that the younger generation is simply too unmotivated to vote.

“The bottom line is that people generally agree that the extent to which young adults feel they have a stake in the establishment is less than the older voter,” Kidd said.

If all eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 25 were to vote this fall, it could completely change the current status quo of the American political system. Only time can tell if the youth demographic will become more involved as the election draws closer.

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