Teen Style: Election 2008

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— With the election approaching, politics are a hot topic of conversation for local teens. Although not able to vote, teens - including the five-member Teen Style staff - seem to be very opinionated about the upcoming election.

"A lot of the time we actually talk about politics in class, which I totally don't understand," said Emma Schmidt, 12. "We talk about mainly McCain and Obama and what they stand for."

Added Paula Ninger, 16, "I wish I could vote, but I can't."

This year brings a politically diverse group to the Teen Style staff, with two writers identifying with Republicans, two with independents and one with Democrats. Where political affiliation often creates tension among adults, the teens appeared to use the split in opinion as an opportunity to better understand differing viewpoints.

When it came to the central issues focused on in this campaign, the staffers had dissimilar views on what was most important. The majority thought the economy should be the primary focus.

"I don't get angry about it (the economy) for the most part," said Zach Schmidt, 14. "But I do think that it is more relevant than the Iraq war because it's not as detached from daily life - you can see inflation (taking place)."

Ninger said the economic downturn is likely to be a long-term issue.

"Everyone's been saying that it's the worst stock market drop since the Great Depression, and I feel like if we don't turn it around, we're going to be screwed," Ninger said. "This is especially relevant to us because we aren't going to be able to pay for college, we're going to be in debt, and it's going to be really, really hard to pull that off."

On another note, Kayla Stack, 15, said environmental issues should remain in focus. "To me, that's one that's not going to go away, and the more we wait, the worse it's going to get," Stack said.

The teens had mixed reactions when told that in 2004, more people voted for the winner of the final round of "American Idol" than they did for the winner of the presidential election. BBC News reported more than 63 million votes were cast in the final of "American Idol," while George W. Bush received almost 60 million votes.

"I don't know if more people are going to vote than for the 'American Idol,'" said Emma Schmidt. "Because people under 18 can vote for 'American Idol' : I know that this is probably more important than 'American Idol,' but I don't know if more people are going to vote."

Zach Schmidt was more optimistic. He explained that after the Bush presidency, people are so unhappy that they will vote. Stack had a similar sentiment.

"Until four years ago, none of us cared about it at all, now it matters more," Stack said.

Regardless of affiliation or the ranking of issues' significance, the teens agreed on one thing: the outcome of this election will affect us for a long time.

It is important that teens remain educated about what is going on in this country because, as Stack said, "in the next election we'll be voting."

The Teen Style staff meets once a month to have a "Hot Topic" discussion. The group discusses the various angles of a question related to the month's Teen Style theme. Unlike a standard editorial board meeting, the group does not attempt to reach a consensus opinion - the goal is to voice opinions as openly as possible.

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