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Political involvement at NYU

November 2, 2015

Graphic by Alexa Wong
Graphic by Alexa Wong

New York state was ranked the second worst in voter turnout during the 2014 election season, according to Times Union. Less than one-third of the state’s eligible population voted. Across the country, only 19.9 percent of 18- to 29-year olds cast ballots, according to Civic Youth. WSN surveyed 235 NYU students about their political involvement in an attempt to determine how politically engaged the student body is.

Of the students surveyed, over half (57.4 percent) say that politics is “very important” to them. Despite this, 90.6 percent said they plan on voting in the upcoming 2016 presidential election. LS sophomore Leah Lavigne said participating in the electoral process enables her to play an active role in politics.

“I definitely plan on voting,” Lavigne said. “I think it’s important to do so because exercising my voice on who is in power in the government is one way I can stand up for what I think is right, wrong, important and in ‘our’ best interest. People are quick to complain, but I think you ought to walk the walk and not just
talk — voting is an obvious way to act on
your opinions.”

Students who are U.S. citizens have the opportunity to vote in New York City by registering under their local address, something many seem eager to do: 95.2 percent of students who weren’t eligible to vote in last year’s local election plan to do so this year.

A majority of the surveyed students say they feel interested and engaged in American politics — only 3.4 percent of students surveyed say they don’t care about politics at all. Tisch sophomore Megan Tomei said the busy lifestyle that comes along with an education at NYU can make it difficult for those interested in politics to keep up.

“I’ll vote, because why not?” Tomei said. “I think it’s a great thing we get to do but that doesn’t mean I necessarily understand how my one vote makes a difference. Because of that, it’s almost a deterrent for me — I haven’t been watching the debates. In a way, though, I want to care more about politics than I do.”

WSN found 74.5 percent of people eligible to vote in last year’s local elections did and 87.1 percent of those ineligible to vote last year have plans to vote in this year’s local election. With over 40 clubs at NYU focusing on politics, public policy, activism or advocacy and provide students with a forum to circulate their political ideas.

The NYU Politics Society, for example, provides a forum for students to share and develop their beliefs. A non-partisan political club at NYU, the group fosters discussion that doesn’t strictly adhere to
any party.

Upon joining the club two years ago, NYU Politics Society Events Director and CAS senior Matthew Glaser was not as certain of his political stance as he is now, but the society helped him learn where his political opinions fell. Many other politically geared clubs at NYU prompt students to think about what drives them to the polls.

Glaser said casting his ballot every November is one of the most powerful rights granted to American citizens, reiterating how important he feels it is to vote.

“You effectively have a say in who is going to represent you in government, and NYU students, I believe, are motivated to get to the polls, to uphold what they believe in, and to not let anyone stop them,” Glaser said. “That is a great part
of democracy.

Email Grace Halio at [email protected].

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