Students should be more involved in politics

By Jack Baker

I hate interviewing students for stories about current events.

We’re always supposed to get local opinions, but it is so difficult to find students that actually know what is going on with the American government, the upcoming presidential election or whatever topic we’re writing about.

It’s really frustrating how unfamiliar students are with what is going on, but it’s not just a problem with students. Numerous studies have shown that the population in general just doesn’t know a lot about worldly issues.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 54 percent of the public know what the unemployment rate is in this country.

And while 85 percent of people know what Twitter is, only 46 percent knew that Greece was being bailed out by the European Union at the time the survey was completed.

The public knows so little, and even when they are aware of something, they only know the basic facts and don’t understand the entire issue.

According to another study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of people know the budget deficit is larger today than it was in the 1990s, but only 39 percent actually knows how the government spends its money.

While it’s good that the public knows some basic facts, they don’t know the important information that actually matters. Knowing the country is going broke does you no good when you don’t know why or how you can vote to change it.

These statistics don’t paint the best picture of the American public, and it gets even worse when you look at the group most of us students belong to, young people between the ages of 18 and 29.

While 54 percent of the general public knew the unemployment rate, only 36 percent of young people did.

This lack of knowledge affects society in a number of ways, and this will only get worse as the uninformed young people grow into uninformed older people.

Bill Cassidy, associate professor in the department of communication, said that this lack of knowledge has a big impact on elections.

“What are people basing their votes on if they don’t know what’s going on in the country?” Cassidy said. “Are you basing your decision on things that actually matter?”

Cassidy tells his classes a story which illustrates this point.

In a previous class, Cassidy had a student who voted for George W. Bush over John Kerry because Bush had “hotter daughters.”

“This is an extreme example,” Cassidy said. “It is indicative that people base their decision on non-substantive things.”

With the presidential election coming up next year, it is important for students to learn about the issues, so they can vote on whose economic recovery plan they prefer and not whose daughters are hotter.

If people don’t keep track and get vested in the issues, it becomes easier for campaign advertisements to influence or even manipulate them, Cassidy said.

We’re college students. We are here with the purpose of pursuing an education, and yet so few students are aware of events that are very influential to the world around us.

We can all do better. Just pay more attention, read the news, become more well informed and don’t get caught up following political ads, it will be better for everyone in the long run.