ISIS, Gun Control and Immigration are of Students’ Greatest Concern
By Hannah Lachow
It is no secret that Mamaroneck High School students live in a bit of a bubble. We live in a highly educated, affluent suburb outside the most cosmopolitan city in the world. The views held by most members of our community do not in any way reflect those of most Americans. What is interesting, though, is how this “bubble” nature of Larchmont and Mamaroneck plays into students’ views and opinions on politics. The more educated students are, the more passionate they are. The more passionate they are, the more likely they are to have a strong ideological tie to a specific party.
It is also no secret that that in Larchmont and Mamaroneck, this strong ideological tie tends to be attached to the Democratic Party. Although most highly educated affluent suburbs tend to lean right, in The Globe’s recent school-wide political poll, 52.1 percent of Mamaroneck High School students identified themselves as Democrats, as compared to the 18 percent that identified as Republican.
“I find that a majority of my students do break for the Democratic Party,” AP United States Government and Politics teacher Joe Liberti explained. “I also notice that students are much more fiscally conservative than they often realize. Because of this, I think they sometimes feel an ideological division.”
Despite this possible ideological tension, in total, 353 people selected Sanders or Clinton as their preferred presidential candidate. In comparison, 166 votes were cast for Trump, Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Fiorina, Gilmore, Graham, Huckabee, Rubio, Pataki, Paul, Kasich and Santorum combined. Liberti explained why this might be.
“I think students are more open to differences and more comfortable with diversity, growing up in an area so cosmopolitan,” he said. “And not just cosmopolitan in our town itself. I think our town’s close relation to New York City plays an important role as well.”
The two front running candidates in Mamaroneck High School were Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Sanders trailed Clinton by only one percentage point (25.5 percent vs 24.5 percent, respectively.) Their competitor, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, ran far behind, polling at a slim total of just six votes, or just 0.9 percent.
Sixty and a half percent of those polled as Clinton supporters are female. Conversely, 60.3 percent of Sanders’ supporters are male. Additionally, Clinton supporters as a whole had more faith in the current state of government. When asked to evaluate their trust in the federal government on a scale of 1-10 (1 being not at all, 10 being complete trust ) , Clinton supporters, on average, responded with a 5.36 In comparison, Sanders supporters responded with an average of 4.62.
Although students predominantly identified themselves as Democrats, the 18 percent of students who identified as Republicans displayed an equally polarized view of politics. Donald Trump led the Republican Party, polling at 9.1 percent. Eighty percent of those who said they supported Trump are male. Trump’s supporters’ perceptions of the federal government ran closer to those of Sanders’ supporters; the average Trump supporter felt a 4.45/10 level of trust for the government. To many, Trump has taken an attractive antiestablishment stance—the antithesis of that of the typical politician in just about every respect. And although Bernie Sanders certainly falls opposite on policy positions, many believe that he shares this “atypical” politician image with Trump, reflecting the current state of dissatisfaction with the federal government.
Polling after Trump was Marco Rubio at 3.8 percent, then Jeb Bush at 3.3 percent. Following Bush was Ben Carson 3.0 percent. After that, the remaining Republican candidates’ rates dipped below 2 percent. A candidate like Senator Ted Cruz, who is gaining major traction on the national stage, polled at a miniscule 0.3 percent.
The front runners for each respective party as indicated by Mamaroneck High School students, Clinton and Trump, are also the two candidates whom most Mamaroneck High School students selected as the candidate for whom they would least likely vote. About 59 percent responded that they are least likely to vote for Trump in the 2016 election. Around 12 percent responded Clinton to the same question. Not surprisingly, the majority of people who answered that they would least likely vote for Clinton also responded that they are planning on voting for Trump. The same is true vice-versa.
This statistic reflects a national trend—the rise in ideological polarization. Beginning in 1994, the Pew Research Center has conducted polls every ten years regarding the ideological level of eligible voters. Recently, these levels have been increasing. The median Republican has moved steadily towards the right as the median Democrat has pushed towards the left. Despite this clear rise in political polarization, 76.8 percent of former Murray Avenue students answered that they would consider voting across party lines. Mamaroneck Avenue students were 20 percent less likely to answer yes to the same question; only 56.5 percent of Mamaroneck Avenue students said that they would be willing to consider voting for the party they do not belong to.
Besides ideological commitment, students seem to be casting their preliminary votes off of many other factors. Approximately 61 percent of Mamaroneck High School students identified ISIS as one of three most important issues they would consider when casting a vote in the 2016 election. Trailing behind terrorism was gun control (45.1 percent), and immigration (40.4 percent.) Liberti commented on what issues he sees being most important to his students today.
“Whether or not students realize it, the social issues tend to be the issues that push someone into a party today, more than the economic ones, particularly the floater voter,” he explained. “Social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage are both the most accessible and the ones that animate passion the most.”
Some students, however, such as John Liptack ’16, strayed from the majority. He did not cite social issues or ISIS as ones pertinent ones to him. “The biggest issues are the economy, immigration reform and homeland security,” Liptack explained. “While ISIS is a serious threat, we must worry about securing ourselves internally before we can take the fight to them.” When considering whom to vote for in the 2016 elections, Liptack considered a candidate’s economic positions to be most important. “The two candidates who I endorse are Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio because of their tax plans,” he said, specifying certain positions each candidate has taken that he deems appropriate. The majority of Mamaroneck High School students is not as invested in or informed with politics as Liptack, though, making him likely one of the minority who actually votes based off of policy standpoints, and economic policy standpoints at that. Although education is rarely talked about on the debate stage, a predominant 28.2 percent of Mamaroneck High School students identified education as an issue that needs to be addressed.
Political preferences come down to a lot more than just policy, though. Demographics and surrounding influences play just as large if not a larger role. Sixty-two percent of Mamaroneck High School students identify with the same political party as both of their parents. Brooke Smith ’18 explained how she falls into this majority. “My parents raised me to think a certain way as well as act a certain way towards others,” she said. “Over time, this has seeped into my political beliefs.” She admits that her “political views are most definitely influenced by [her] parents and sometimes even [her] friends.” It is unclear if the majority of Mamaroneck High School students agrees with her, though. Fifty-three percent of Mamaroneck High School students believe that their parents have had “no significant influence” on their political views. Despite this statistic, 43.1 percent cited parents as a primary medium from which they receive political information.
Geographic and socioeconomic factors may also contribute to how and why students feel the way they do. As a whole Mamaroneck Avenue students were around 10 percent more likely to vote for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. The Mamaroneck median household income lies around $87,000. Larchmont students from Murray Avenue were about 5 percent more likely to vote for Clinton over Sanders. The Larchmont median household income sits closer to $175,000, almost double of those households in Mamaroneck.
Besides parents, students identified many other media from which they most often get their information. About 68 percent of Mamaroneck High School students commonly learn about politics through TV news channels. On the other hand, only 10.2 percent of students frequently listen to the radio for political information.
No matter where or how students are obtaining their information, they seem to be interpreting it differently from the majority of America. As Liberti said, “My students do not live in real America.”