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Point of View

Point of View

Presidential politics, 2008 style: What gets the student vote?

— In an unscientific survey less than two weeks before Tsunami Tuesday, the NewsCenter asked a random sampling of UC Berkeley students — on Sproul Plaza and inside the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union — for their thoughts on the 2008 presidential election. We posed two questions: "What election issue is most important to you?" and "Which presidential candidate do you plan to vote for in the Feb. 5 California primary?" Here's what 16 undergraduates had to say.

Top issue: 'The economy and how to alleviate the problems related to the sub-prime mortgages and all that has reverberated from that. Economic policies that are implemented now will affect the job market five, ten years from now.'

Candidate: 'I'll probably vote for Hillary Clinton. I got to Berkeley for a reason: I believe in doing my research and doing my homework. So I've gone back and done some research on the candidates, and on what Clinton has done in the past — her Senate voting record, and policies she worked on even before she was a senator.

'This is my first election. I'm 20 years old. I'm very excited. I'm a virgin voter.'

— Elizabeth Pell, sophomore, business history. Hometown: Northridge, CA
Elizabeth Pell, sophomore, business history. Hometown: Northridge, CA

Mike Crandall, senior, theater . Hometown: Santa Ana, CA

Top issue: 'Abortion. I'm a staunch pro-life advocate. Unborn children are still human, and for me the fact that abortion is legal is a government-sanctioned slaughter.'

Candidate: 'I'm leaning toward the conservative side — thinking maybe Huckabee. I've also heard some good things regarding McCain's voting record on abortion. But I want to do more research, because I've also heard he's done pro-choice voting.'

— Mike Crandall, senior, theater.
Hometown: Santa Ana, CA

Top issue: 'To have a leader who's not going to follow the usual political system and traditional ways of recreating the same problems that we have. I'm looking for someone who actually is going to create a change in our  paradigm. So it's not Iraq or a specific issue, but it's their ideologies.'

Candidate: 'I really would prefer to have any of the Democrats over a Republican. I would vote for Dennis Kucinich, but… in terms of someone with a chance to win, I guess I'll vote for Barack Obama. He's definitely not perfect. But it's between him and Hillary, and Hillary's just too involved in the political system. She's been in it too deep, and has the same ideology as all of the politicians, which is not what I'm looking for.'

— John Campbell, sophomore, Peace and Conflict Studies. Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA
John Campbell, sophomore, Peace & Conflict Studies. Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA

Christine Mai-Duc, senior, political science. Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Top issue: 'The direction of the Iraq war. The war is one of the biggest foreign-policy failures that my generation has seen. It has severely damaged our international standing in the global community. With all the international issues we're facing now, our image is tarnished, and we're really not effective in solving problems unless we can move away from that situation.'

Candidate: 'I'm still undecided, as I'm also weighing domestic policy really heavily. On the Democratic side it's muddy, in terms of health care and education and what specifically each candidate would do. The Republican field is distinguishing itself a little bit. But on the Democratic side there's been a lot of political squabbling, so it takes a lot more effort to research.'

— Christine Mai-Duc, senior, political science.
Hometown: Sacramento, CA


Top issue: 'I'm an accountant and I'm concerned about what we can do to prevent fallout from the mortgage crisis affecting our entire economy and also individual credit-worthiness. I'm concerned about the future of Social Security, as well; it's not well funded. And with a recession, there's no ability for the government to add additional subsidies to Social Security. Instead, the president continues to go back to ask for more money for the war in Iraq; it's a bottomless pit.'

Candidate: 'Whether I vote Hillary or Obama is yet to be decided. I'm listening closely to the bickering back and forth, to their stance on issues. I want to see wavering and I want to see who's going to stand firm.... I don't think that you have to have [national political] background; I think you have to have good business sense. We're running a business, as a country, let's face it. It's based on money, bottom-line numbers, and we need a good business leader here — a business leader with a heart.'

— Meredith Graham, senior, art history.
Hometown: Shreveport, LA

Meredith Graham, senior, art history.

Zohair Jamal, junior, integrative biology

Top issue: 'Health care. Health care should be available to everybody. Foreign policy, the Iraq war, is also a big thing; among Muslim students in general it's big.'

Candidate: 'I'm not sure who I'm going to vote for. I'm leaning towards Obama. I’m not a huge fan of Democrats — but since we have a two-party system and it has to be one party or the other, Barack Obama is the person I would vote for. I like him and Edwards as far as health care goes. On the Iraq war, I like what Obama has said.'

— Zohair Jamal, junior, integrative biology

Top issue: 'The environment, because it's no longer a question as to whether there is or isn't global warming. There is; there's so much scientific evidence backing that. So it's now time to do something about it. A lot of the candidates have comprehensive plans — like cap and trade, limiting the amount of carbon admissions, giving car makers money to start making more electric cars, etc.

Candidate: 'I really like Obama, but I feel that Clinton has much more political experience. I looked at their websites, pertaining to the environment, and they both have similar plans. So I haven't completely decided. I'll probably watch more debates. And I probably should do more research and talk to other people.'

— Amy Westermann, junior, molecular and cell biology. Hometown: Lake Forest, CA
Amy Westermann, junior, molecular and cell biology. Hometown: Lake Forest, CA

Nan Zhang, senior, Spanish and interdisciplinary studies

Top issue: 'Health care. I found out that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal health care to its citizens. Health care should be a right and not a privilege. We should spend more on health care and education - not elsewhere, such as war.'

Candidate: 'I really like Barack Obama, and I also like Hillary Clinton - but I'm kind of scared of Clinton. I feel she has a different agenda than what she proposes, and doesn't answer things up front. That's what I don't like about her. So I'm still deciding.'

— Nan Zhang, senior, Spanish and interdisciplinary studies. Hometown: Arcadia, CA

Top issue: 'The economy is the most important thing for keeping us strong. Economic power translates to military power translates to attracting foreign investment translates to overall strength.'

Candidate: 'Possibly Romney on the Republican side or Obama on the Democratic side. Obama because his economic policies are not too liberal and Romney for his smart economic policies that will actually work for our country. I want the person who is best for the job; I really don't care what their party is.'

— Sagar Gupta, sophomore, economics.
Hometown: Columbia, MD
Sagar Gupta, sophomore, economics Hometown: Columbia, MD

Vishal Vashistha, sophomore, chemistry and South Asian Studies.

Top issue: 'In terms of the presidency, I don’t think policy is as important as philosophy. I want a good, strong individual, as opposed to someone who cares about taxes or this or that issue — which is something I'd vote for more in Congress.'

Candidate: 'In the last eight years we've had liars in office — not just in the president but in Congress — and I don't really trust anybody right now. Even though we have a lot of Democrats in our family and I'd like to vote for a Democrat, I feel our candidates are pretty much cheaters; I don't really trust any one of the three.

'For that reason I'll probably have to vote for McCain, even though I don't want to vote for a Republican. I feel like he's sacrificed so much for the country already that he has no reason to even be in politics unless he really wants to do something for the country.'

— Vishal Vashistha, sophomore, chemistry and South Asian Studies

Top issue: 'Healthcare and economic issues affecting the poverty areas of America — what would be called "the 'hood." Because there's not a lot of jobs going to those neighborhoods; the poverty level seems to be getting worse and worse as other people get richer and richer. The "trickle-down" is not trickling down; that's not working at all.'

Candidate: 'Right now I'm still Obama-Hillary; I'm not sure yet. They both seem to be talking about the same thing, and saying the same thing. Hopefully they'll start saying something different — or maybe they'll team up. I think their last-minute speeches will make me decide — whoever sways me the most at the last minute.'

— Jovern Johnson, sophomore, mass communications. Hometown: South Central L.A.
Jovern Johnson, sophomore, mass communications. Hometown: South Central Los Angeles

Alex Ghenis, sophomore, geography.

Top issue and candidate: 'It's split, actually, for me. I'm looking for the ability to change the way that politics is going — which is something we see coming from Barack. The ability to fight the corporate culture that's been controlling our government, and take it back for the people, is very important for me.

'But in this election what's also important is a candidate who could beat the Republican candidate. I hate to say it, but that’s the way that politics is; I wish that I could be more idealistic…. And Edwards is polling higher when paired one-on-one against virtually every Republican.'

— Alex Ghenis, sophomore, geography

Top issue: 'Foreign policy in the Middle East — because I'm Israeli; this is what I study; it's what most of my interests are. It's a big concern for me.'

Candidate: 'I'm not entirely pleased with any candidate. I'm sure I'll end up voting for a Democratic candidate; I don’t see myself voting for a third party this year. So it depends what they keep saying. Every now and then, somebody puts a foot in their mouth and makes me want to vote for them a little less. So it's hard to say.'

— Talia Nissimyan, senior, interdisciplinary studies. Hometown: Pomona, CA
Talia Nissimyan, senior, insterdisciplinary studies. Hometown: Pomona, CA

Halley Finkel, junior, environmental science.

Top issue: 'How we're going to bring the economy back up, and I'm also interested in how environmental things are going to be worked out. The war is also important to me.'

Candidate: 'I'm voting Democrat… Right now I'm leaning toward Hillary, but I could be swayed. I'll be happy with either Hillary or Obama.'

— Halley Finkel, junior, environmental science

Top issue: 'Immigration — simply because of my background: my parents, my family, myself, we're immigrants from El Salvador.'

Candidate: 'I'm voting Democratic and I'm still debating between two candidates — Obama and Clinton. I'm not 100 percent happy with Clinton's policy on immigration or her views on immigration and what she plans on doing. And I'm still finding out about Obama. I'm trying to do Internet research to find out more about them.'

— Mike Guzman, junior, political economics and mass communications
Mike Guzman, junior, political economics and mass communications.

Davis Liu, junior, business. Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

Top issue: 'The economy and Iraq, in that order. In every publication you read, there's talk of potential recession. The Fed is doing as best it can, but politicians continue to funnel all this money to Iraq; we spend an exorbitant amount there each day. You could put that money to education and social services; if you put it in a war, you're not helping the economy, only the defense industry.'

Candidate: 'I guess I'll vote the Democrats — but oh, man! I'm really not sure. Barack or Hillary.'

— Davis Liu, junior, business.
Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

To read about the political profile of the UC Berkeley undergraduate student body, see "The undergrad lowdown: growing convictions."