Students’ political choices reflect, local, national results

By Karen Colbenson

Mirroring the landslide results of Tuesday’s elections, students at Austin High School overwhelmingly chose DFL candidate Barack Obama as their presidential candidate of choice.

Out of 1,400 students in grades 9-12, a total of 1,002 chose to participate in a mock election held Oct. 30. The event was organized like an official election — students who wanted to fill out a ballot had to register and sign in. The ballot listed seven categories from the local races to the nation’s top seat.

Now the country’s president-elect, Obama scored 696 votes from students, compared to Republican candidate John McCain’s 220 votes. Independent candidate Ralph Nader received 32 votes.


A majority of the students’ voting results for other local and state elections also were on target.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz got 662 votes compared to Republican challenger Brian Davis, who received 173 votes.

DFL Rep. Jeanne Poppe got 661 votes from students, beating Republican Brian Thiel, who received 215 votes.

Many students, however, preferred Mark Nagle for the Mayor’s seat, rather than re-electing incumbent Tom Stiehm, who on Tuesday won the bid for re-election.

AHS Government and economics teacher Rayce Hardy was not surprised by how close the students’ votes were to the actual election results.

"We have a lot of students in Austin High who think for themselves and have their own opinions and have their own reasons for their opinions," said Hardy. "I think it was a far more educated electorate than many would understand. We have a pretty educated electorate here at the high school."

According to Hardy, students’ votes seem to be strongly influenced by family, friends and candidate name recognition.

"It seemed to be that when I talked to the students, three things play in," he said. "I think that family has a very big role on the students and how they vote. The second is simply recognition — incumbents always have that name recognition benefit. Third would be their friends. If a vocal student is pushing and campaigning for someone, I think they have a pretty big role in that."


Age also matters.

"Students generally tend to lean toward a younger candidate, and in a lot of the cases, that proved to be true," said Hardy.

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