Late-night parties and stereos blaring may sound like a typical evening for many teenagers on the weekends. Now change "late night" to "election night" and stereos to CNN and you will get what many local high school students were doing Nov. 2.
It is no surprise that teenagers have taken an increased interest in politics, with such campaigns as Rock the Vote and Declare Yourself! having taken over MTV the past few months. And with the much-anticipated presidential election having ended last Wednesday afternoon with the re-election of President Bush, area high schoolers are still reflecting on the outcome.
Many were dissatisfied with the defeat of the Democratic candidate, Sen. John Kerry. "Bush should not be president again," said Steph Comer of Frontier Senior High. "(He) just satisfies the rich part of the country. I expect the country to go downhill (from here)."
Sarah Welch, at senior at City Honors which overwhelmingly supported Sen. John Kerry in a mock election, said: "I consider myself a liberal Democrat, so needless to say, I'm disappointed with the result of the election. I think it's crucial that people, especially young people, continue to fight for what they believe in. And most importantly, we have to get across to the foreign media that a great portion of this country does not support the president's foreign policy."
Abbey Burns of Mount St. Mary Academy also was disappointed because "I do not agree with many of President Bush's views -- mostly on taxes, stem cell research and homosexual marriage." David Zimmer of St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute said he was satisfied with the election "because it was over without a big legal battle, even though I wanted John Kerry to win." Maria Bianchi, also of Mount St. Mary Academy, said that, "Though it did not turn out the way I had hoped, I felt that the election was fair, and I can accept the results. (However) I am afraid that gas prices and the national deficit will continue to rise."
Others were pleased with the president's re-election. "Bush is a strong leader who has led our country through a tough time -- 9/1 1," said Matthew Bucholz of St. Joe's. "I'm expecting that Bush will continue to do a good job on the war on terror and I hope he will create jobs in his upcoming term." Laura Bork of Mount St. Mary's Academy said, "I was happy to see that Bush won the popular vote by a few million." Hilary Andelora of Frontier said that "I thought Bush was doing great and our nation didn't need Kerry's plans." According to Nick Tirone of Canisius High School, "I thought Bush had more to offer than Kerry. I have more faith and trust in the president."
Students listed a variety of issues that were most important to them. Among them were the war in Iraq, the economy and gay marriage.
Liz Brocki, another Frontier student, noted that "The (possibility) of a draft was a big factor along with the war in Iraq." Tirone said "I feel most strongly about where the war is going and how it will affect our economy." Comer said she believes "Two people should be able to get married no matter what," which played a large role in her support of Kerry.
When it comes to who influences their opinions most, the teenagers interviewed most commonly stated "family." Burns says, "As much as I have respect for my teachers and friends, I try to form my own opinions. However, I find often that the media and my family are (an) unavoidable influence. Celebrities' opinions do not influence me in the least."
Teenagers get their information about politics from different sources. Andrew Kelly of St. Joe's said: "I get my information on politics from a variety of sources -- television like CNN and FOX, newspapers and the Internet. I try to get the issues from as many different sources as possible to draw the least-biased conclusions."
Burns said that, "As much as I would like to say that I get my information strictly from completely reliable sources, that would be impossible. Although I try to listen to talk radio and news programs, many things distort my views, such as negative campaign ads."
Many teens also said that they do not always agree with their friends on political issues, but it does not cause too many problems. Nick Diagostino, president and founder of the St. Joe's Young Democrats Club, said, "My family agrees with me but most of my friends do not."
"As a somewhat outspoken supporter of the Democratic candidate, I found myself debating with my friends," Bianchi said.
One thing teenagers agree on is the importance of voting. "I hope to vote when I reach 18," Bulcholz said. Burns summed up her feelings with, "Politics are important to me because I believe strongly in everyone exercising their right to vote."
NeXt correspondents Brian Hayden, Katie Ruda and Emily Sullivan contributed to this article.