Electoral dysfunction: NAU students get bombarded with election propoganda
By Justin Regan
An epidemic is spreading through the collegiate community: more and more students are coming down with the symptoms for something called electoral dysfunction. It comes in many forms: Facebook memes, dramatic TV ads or booths bribing students with free candy.
For a majority of students, the 2012 election was the first presidential election in which they were able to vote. The task of voting for the first time can seem as exciting as it is challenging, bringing in a whole new element to adult life.
“You’ve never really had to think about what stances you need for stuff because I’ve never voted before,” says Malory Donahue, a sophomore visual communications major. “And now you have to balance your emotional aspects with things you want for the country.”
Along with thinking critically, students must find ways to do research on the candidates and propositions for the election.
“I usually talk to my parents about my stuff because they’re the ones who have to deal with this stuff now,” Donahue says. “News stations are so biased and they focus on the most ridiculous things I just feel stupid watching it.”
This concept of media bias leads to a great deal of frustration for students when trying to find accurate information on the candidates.
“They say, ‘Oh, let’s learn about this guy’s family,’ or ‘What did this guy do as a kid?’” says Travis Davis, a sophomore secondary education major. “I don’t care about that. I want to know what he is going to do.”
With busy school schedules, it may be difficult for students to find time to do extensive background research on the elections, but according to Shayna Stevens, a sophomore secondary education major and Board Director for ASA, it is worth the extra time if you understand the importance of it.
“There’s not a starting or ending point; it’s a constant stream of education,” Stevens says. “If you make it a priority, you can find time. Don’t watch TV that night, don’t go out that weekend. There are so many opportunities you can use to educate yourself.”
For some though, social media has become the primary source of information for the election, buried under a wave of memes on killing Big Bird, invisible people in chairs and opinionated bar graphs.
“If the presidential election is a joke,” says Davis. “Then Facebook is the punch line.”
Emma Kzrnarich, a freshman political science-communication major and ASA intern was looking for Facebook pages on Proposition 204 when she found one that claimed to support the proposition, but was actually feeding false information.
“[Facebook pages] have such an influence now,” Kzrnarich says. “People are so far beyond knowing what’s actually even going on with our government, with our propositions [and] with the candidates.”
With a lack of time for research, students are more at the mercy of media sources that do not paint the full picture, such as hardly mentioning third party candidates who also run for president.
“As a college student, I’m all over the place,” Kzrnarich says. “They make such a big deal out of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama; I’m hearing about those, but I’m not hearing about the third parties.”
When it comes to third parties, students also share the common conception that a vote for them would only take a vote away from someone who can actually win.
“Even if the independent does have the better [candidate], the reason I would end up voting for the Republican or Democrat is that I know one of those is getting chosen even if it’s just the best of a bad situation just which one even by slightly deserves it more,” Davis says.
As the election season winds down and life returns to the so-called normal, students are coming out of the season with a new perspective on how the system works (or doesn’t). While some might feel powerless under the wave of media bias, social media gags and super pacs, they ultimately have the final say with their vote. Stevens feels it is about time people started realizing that.
“If enough people decide to do anything, there’s a change that can happen,” Stevens says. “It always starts with that one person that believes they can change the world that actually does.”