Not everything is about President Donald Trump.
That’s what more than two dozen University of South Carolina students — some of whom will be heading to the ballot box for the first time in November — told The State newspaper when asked what issues will be most important to them in the 2018 election. Rather, they’re more concerned about the cost of tuition, free speech on campus and immigration.
The State polled students as several of USC’s college political organizations kicked off a voter registration drive this week. The four participating organizations are USC’s College Republicans, College Democrats, Young Democratic Socialists and College Libertarians.
“We don’t agree on a lot of stuff, but we do agree students should vote,” said College Democrats President Logan Martin, who sat across a table in Russell House from College Republicans President Jake Vining.
Martin said he hopes the four organizations will register 500 students to vote between Thursday and the end of next week.
“We just want kids voting in general,” Vining said. “If we make our argument and you don’t like it, I’d rather you vote for the other guy than not vote at all.”
To conduct the survey, the newspaper interviewed 28 current USC students and one recent graduate, asking them to determine the importance of several key issues: freedom of speech on campus, Trump, gun control and the cost of tuition, on a scale of one to three, with three being the most important.
It’s important to note the survey is not scientific.
Average score by issue (higher score means more importance. Maximum possible score is 3.)
- Cost of ruition: 2.66
- Free speech on campus: 2.66
- Gun control: 2.50 (22 total respondents)
- Donald Trump: 2.07 (28 total respondents)
The survey did not seek to gauge how students felt on a given issue. For example, we asked students the importance of a candidate’s stance on gun control rather than their willingness to vote for a pro- or anti-gun control candidate.
Dalexis Aldridge, a junior interdisciplinary studies major, considered free speech on campus and the cost of tuition as key topics to her choosing a candidate. She rated her opinions on Trump a “one.”
Aldridge said she does not like Trump, but she tries to look past his behavior.
“Though he’s not relevant to me, I’ve paid more attention to politics than ever before,” Aldridge said of Trump’s presidency.
The State asked students about their opinion of Trump for several reasons. For one, many freshmen and some sophomore voters would have been too young to vote in the 2016 presidential election. Also, lawmakers, pundits and analysts have noted the effect of Trump’s presidency on Congressional, state, and even local elections, so it was worth exploring whether his presidency would sway students’ votes.
The State also asked what other issues would rise to a “three” or would be a key issue as they choose candidates. Respondents were allowed to name as many issues as they wanted. Some did not mention any issues. Here are the other issues students mentioned and the number of students who said it was among their most important issues.
Health care: 7
- Equality/equal pay: 6
- Economy/jobs: 5
- Taxes: 3
- Judicial nominations: 2
- Foreign policy: 2
- Law enforcement/correctional reform: 1
- Education: 1
- Poverty: 1
Though 83 percent of respondents said they were likely to vote in the upcoming election, 48 percent said they have never voted before. Nearly half of those who said they never voted before were freshmen.
Research has suggested actual student voter turnout is a fraction of that. During the last midterm election, in 2014, 18 percent of college students voted, compared to 37 percent overall, according to an article in The New York Times.
We collected some demographic information from our respondents.
Year in school:
- Freshman: 7
- Sophomore: 8
- Junior: 9
- Senior: 4
- Recent graduate: 1 (graduated summer 2018)
Majors of respondents.
- Psychology: 6
Public health, pre-med/ nursing/pre-pharmacy: 4
Communications/media arts/advertising: 3
Computer science: 2
- Sociology: 1
- Interdisciplinary studies: 1
- Sports management: 1
- Business: 1
- Art history: 1
- Exercise science: 1
- Chemical engineering: 1
Percent of respondents who were in-state/out of state students:
- In-state: 72 percent
- Out-of-state: 28 percent