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'Tis the season

January 08, 2008|By SHOVAL RESNICK / Pulse Corresponent

The 2008 election cycle is suddenly here, and politics is in full swing. I can almost feel the earth moving under my feet.

Candidates, as always, are trying to get the young people out to vote. Attempts to appeal to the younger generation seem to have increased drastically. So, with this giant focus on teens, the question is really what do they consider important?

In a poll taken late last year at North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools, 24 teens were asked to tell three issues they consider important in the 2008 presidential election. Some of the teens responding to the poll will be able to vote this year. Some will not be voting yet.

The four most frequently mentioned issues were: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; abortion; the environment (particularly global warming); and immigration.

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The war, not surprisingly, was the most common concern; it was mentioned by 17 students. They gave explanations ranging from "We shouldn't be there" to "Americans do not want our troops in Iraq" to "We need to fight for freedom but not take over the world."

Sam Kelsey, a 15-year-old sophomore at South High, said he wanted more attention put on problems in our own country.

"There are issues in America to worry about before Iraq," he said. "I want the next president to fix Bush's mistake."

Arlene Rivera, a 16-year-old senior at South, understands the war from a different perspective.

"As a military child, I have seen and experienced how deployment can affect families," she said.

Similarly strong reactions were given to the issue of abortion, mentioned by 11 students. But whereas nearly all students were against the wars, opinions were divided on abortion.

"The abortion debate is a question of laws, not lives," said Sarah Riley, a 15-year-old sophomore at South. "Abortion rights are synonymous with women's liberation."

"I don't think abortion or gay marriage is very important," said Ashlyn Powers, 15, from North High. She wanted politicians to work on the war and environmental issues.

Our small-scale poll showed that the environment, mentioned by 10 students, is about as important a concern as abortion. Reasons were once again fairly homogeneous, but varying in intensity of feeling.

Some students advocated protecting the planet "since we will be directly affected by it." Others highlighted specific concerns such as replacing fossil fuels to prevent global warming.

"What is worth having an election if there is no world to live on?" said Donald Brown, a 15-year-old sophomore from South.

Immigration again found teens on both sides of the issue. Nine respondents mentioned it as one of their three top concerns. Some said they were concerned about jobs being taken from legal American residents, whether immigrants or not. These students advocated securing America's borders. Some said they believe that the problems in other countries must be addressed so that immigrants don't want to leave their homeland. Still others said that amnesty should be granted to those already here and that the children of illegal immigrants should not be punished for their parents' illegal immigration.

Other issues mentioned by teens in the poll were education, gay marriage, foreign policy, taxes, stem cell research, and candidate politics and appeal.

Teens are interested. Is there a candidate to reach them?

- Pulse correspondent Fedora Copley contributed to this story

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