Photo courtesy of Drake University
BY ANNA JENSEN
Don Gonyea of National Public Radio’s (NPR) “All Things Considered” traveled to Iowa State University and Drake University on Sept. 20 to talk to first-time voters about the importance of the millennial generation in elections.
Six students from Dr. Kieran Williams’ American Politics class sat in a Meredith classroom, surrounded by microphones, headphones and recording devices while they had a 90-minute interview about their impending experiences as well as emotions regarding the election this November.
“Don Gonyea called Professor Goldford, who is the head of the politics department, because they have known each other for ages,” Williams said. “He said ‘I want to meet students who are studying an introductory government course and have not voted in a presidential election.’”
In class on Tuesday, Williams asked for volunteers who would be willing to talk about the political system and the candidates. Six students were free that Thursday afternoon.
Gonyea and his crew traveled from Iowa State to talk to Drake students.
The schools offer a different sample, based on the size. Gonyea interviewed a group of about 200 at Iowa State as opposed to six students at Drake, Williams said.
“I expected it to be a lot more professional,” junior Natalie Larimer said.
She described the interview as a “chill” environment and the questions were asked in a less structured way, which made it feel less intimidating and just like conversation.
“The sound guy was wearing a t-shirt with a squirrel holding a martini, which was incredible,” Larimer said.
Larimer, an international relations major with a politics minor, stayed for the whole time and was very vocal about her opinions of the election and her place within it.
“Voting is so important. I am so passionate about it,” Larimer said. “When you think your vote doesn’t count, imagine that there are a billion yous saying that. That adds up.”
The millennial vote was a topic addressed by Gonyea during the interview.
With this being another controversial election, he wanted to hear what first-time voters will do and how their responses will compare to the millennial turnout at the polls.
“They asked us why we think millennials don’t vote, our general thoughts on the election, who we support, what are our opinions on the two candidates, and they asked us if our political views stemmed from our parents’ political views,” Larimer said.
A quarter of the electorate is in the millennial range, Williams said. He is interested to see if the numbers will mimic those when it comes time to cast the votes.
“Only 10 percent of voters dislike both (candidates), most just dislike one,” Williams said.
Larimer is one of those who is not a fan of either major party candidate.
She began as a Martin O’Malley supporter, then worked on Sanders’ campaign, and plans to vote for Hillary Clinton in the election but says she does not trust her.
“I have tweeted at Obama to stay in office and I’ve tweeted at O’Malley to come back and save us,” Larimer said. “I wish I was born four years earlier so I could have voted Obama into office. I would love to be put in the generation that votes in the first women president, but I don’t want it to be Hillary.”
None of the Drake students were quoted in the radio version, which was posted on Sept. 23, entitled “First-Time Voters in Iowa Process Unusual Presidential Election.”
Larimer says that she was not upset that she wasn’t quoted in the report. She didn’t even know that NPR was conducting the interview until the day of. She went because she is passionate about voting.
“I saw it more as an experience,” Larimer said. “I can say that I have been interviewed by NPR. Don (Gonyea) followed me on Twitter. People from NPR tweeted at me and the sound guy, Will, quoted me in a tweet Drake posted saying ‘Don’t forget what Nat said, retweets don’t equal quotes.’”
NPR is looking to expose the importance of the millennial vote this November, as are many news outlets.
“This is the time to get into the habit of voting,” Williams said. “If you don’t get into the habit (of voting) before the age of 25, you never get in the habit. We don’t want a whole, large group of people to be so alienated in their first possible election that they then sit out future ones, too.”