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What America’s Political Divisions Say About Its People

by Nicholas Lau

November 5, 2012

A college campus is the best place to follow an election. There are voter registration drives, presidential debate watches, mock debates, and forums to encourage students to discuss what it means to be an informed voter, and how to make the best decision for the next four years. Meanwhile, the College Democrats and College Republicans, clubs for politically-minded students of each party, have been working with full-force to mobilize the student body to vote on Election Day.

Personally, I have enjoyed participating in all this, even though I won’t be voting on Election Day. I believe that the political culture of a country is a good reflection of the people living in it, and this election has provided a new way to get to know America.

During the first presidential debate, hundreds of students at my school got together to watch the live broadcast. Several campus organizations sponsored the event, at which they passed out clickers for students to record their opinions to various questions about the candidates and the debate.

The students began by recording which candidate they would vote for if the election were held right then. About 60 percent of those polled said that they would vote for Governor Romney, with the remaining 40 percent for President Obama. The survey also asked them why, and the main response was that they were unhappy with how the Obama administration had handled the economy.

I have been told that these results might be unusual on most college campuses, since universities tend to be more liberal. I wouldn’t know. My college is in the South in a region that is fairly conservative, where it’s not a surprise that the student body leans towards the Republican candidate.

The Obama supporters are generally minorities, women’s rights activists, gay rights activists or charity groups. White males at my school tend to fall behind Romney. In my American Government class, the professor asked all the students whether they differed in their political view from their parents – well over 90% of them shared their family’s sentiments.

Through joining many of my American friends’ conversations about their political views, I have come to realize how their upbringings have led them to very different opinions on key issues; like abortion, for example.

Most of the Obama supporters would argue that even if their faith condemns abortion, the Constitution requires them to keep their religious views separate from political decisions and not to impose their beliefs on others. They have been raised to believe that individual liberty is sacred. On the other hand, most Romney supporters argue that life begins at conception, which their Christian faith has taught them and is a belief held by several faiths, and abortion should be banned in order to protect human life.

I am conflicted, being a Christian myself, on whether I should impose my views on others. Back home, abortion is legal and is not really a debated issue, so it wasn’t something I’d had to think about before.

The more I talk to my fellow students about their views, the more conflicted I become. The liberals showed me the value of separating church and state, of expanding individual liberties, and of sharing wealth with the poor. The conservatives showed me the importance of preserving our Christian values, of reducing taxes for all, and of safeguarding individual initiative.

I am split on many issues, and may never be able to decide – and will never need to. But from following the elections I learned something valuable about America. I learned that the political landscape is highly divided among people who have been raised to believe in one party or the other, which leaves the power to decide an election with a minority of people in the middle … the “undecided voters.”

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