This year’s presidential race has been nothing short of chaotic, a whirlwind of debates, promises and clashing opinions.
Though the election itself is not for another several months, many of those who have been following the campaigns have strictly committed themselves to supporting individual candidates, while others remain on the fence.
The time has come for a new leader to be elected, and for many teens, this year will be the first time they can officially cast their own vote.
There are a slew of words that are brought up when discussing the campaign. Julia Murphy, a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary Academy, calls it “controversial,” to say the least. “Exciting” and “terrifying” at the same time, the campaigns are not only holding the attention of local young people, but creating a mixed set of reactions.
“It’s disheartening to see that candidates think bashing other candidates gains them credibility,” says Kenmore East High School sophomore Olivia Colby.
To many teens, the banter between the candidates seems childish, certainly not fit for people vying to become the leader of the free world.
“This campaign has been more of a ‘who can insult each other worse’ than a ‘who has the most intelligent ideas and can further America as a whole,’ ” Olivia continues.
The 2016 election does not seem to be producing one clear-cut favorite or one clear-cut underdog. The debates have only gotten hotter, and the opinions even stronger.
But it’s not just those of legal voting age who get to have their voices heard. Teens of all ages have decided that it’s not only a good idea, but vital, that they and their peers choose for themselves what they think is best for the country, and become educated on the matter.
“We live in a culture that has abandoned any sense of detail, back-and-forth, critical thinking, and most importantly, nuance in favor of information that is quicker, easier to swallow, nice and simple, and delivered right to us on the spot,” says John D’Aquino, a sophomore at Kenmore West High School.
“We as a generation can post ‘#feelthebern,’ call Donald Trump a racist, or make Bernie vs. Hillary memes all we want, but it will leave us sadly unprepared to take care of this country and all its complexities for real when it’s our turn,” he says.
The media has always played a large role in the publicity surrounding candidates, and for that reason, teens can be more in tune with the unfolding political events. Claire Cavarello, a Mount Saint Mary’s sophomore, thinks that that can be for better or for worse.
“I think that many youth are properly educated, although there are always some that are not,” she says. “A lot of teens gather their information on politics from social media, which can sometimes give wrong or biased information.”
But it is our duty, believes Iroquois High School senior Luke Sterlace.
“We are the next generation, and in many ways the next president will affect us more so than other generations.”
Luke considers it obvious that today’s youth ought to be keeping an eye on political endeavors for the sake of their own future.
“It is only logical that each citizen knows the views and stances of their candidate of choice so that they are properly represented in the federal government,” he says.
Still, when looking at voter turnout rates, individuals closer in age to 18 historically have a tendency to not vote at all.
RJ Souter, a senior at Kenmore West, thinks this has a direct relation to the lack of formal government education given to students.
“A good amount of kids will not know how to vote or who to vote for when they turn 18 because they weren’t properly educated,” RJ says. “We need to have classes in school that are solely focused on this. I believe that students would get the most out of this and it would not just benefit them, but it would benefit the country as a whole.”
Another Kenmore West senior, Sean McDonough, has a similar view,
“If we want students who are well-versed in politics, we need to invest in a true education of those students. … Democracy doesn’t work when citizens don’t understand what they’re voting for,” he says.
It seems that the roots of good, voting citizens begin in American classrooms.
But as one anonymous senior from Amherst High School states, “The 2016 presidential race is unlike any other campaign in our history.”
Rob Coatsworth, a freshman at Nazareth College in Rochester, is studying with a major in adolescence-inclusive education and a minor in political science.
His tips for voting can be taken into account by those of all ages and political affiliations:
First, he says, “do not vote for someone just because they vow to lower taxes, or legalize pot, or belong to a political party you like.”
Second, Rob says, “judge a leader on what they’ve done to better people’s lives. Derive an inference on whether or not the good they’ve done in the past will be carried out successfully in their presidency.”
Third, he says, “do not vote for you, vote for the good of your country. Don’t be selfish.”
And finally, he advises, “take care in our country. We only have one, and it is the only one of its kind. Take advantage of the freedom. The fact that we have the right to remove ourselves from our country and its trajectory should make us fight for it all the more.
“Today’s youth have the potential and resources to educate themselves in a relatively bias-free manner, but it takes time and effort to do so,” Rob says.
When asked who they would vote for today (regardless of legal age), three of nine interviewed individuals went for Donald Trump, four chose Bernie Sanders, one chose Marco Rubio, and one was split between Rubio and Ben Carson.
It’s important to note that there are still several months until the election, and a good deal of things can be said and done in that time. There is still time for minds to be changed.
One thing is certain: Politics is no longer solely for adults. Nov. 8, Election Day in the United States, will be a monumental day not only for the presidential candidates, but for young citizens of America, as well.
Allison Rapp is a junior at Kenmore West High School.