Emerging electors: MD students’ politics

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Claire Goldberg, Lawson Wright, and Kate Beckler

MD Students Reveal the Roots of their Political BeliefsIn a recent Record poll, 69% of the 176 Middle Division (MD) students who participated in the poll said that they share the same political beliefs with their parents. Social media, the school, and peers have also influenced many MD students’ politics.

After years of family dinners, Charlotte Henes (8) has found that she shares the political beliefs as her parents and family, she said. “I’ve always lived with my parents, so I usually believe what they say,” she said. Additionally, after hearing her brother speak passionately about gun control, Henes said she has started to adopt his views on the issue as her own.

Suli Kumble (6) and her parents want Biden to win the election, but she doesn’t know if she and her parents agree on everything, she said. “My parents are Democrats and I think I am too, but I’m not sure yet,” Kumble said. Kumble thinks she’s a Democrat because she has been raised by two Democrats, she said.

Noelle Yoo (6) said she agrees with her parents on all policies because they are the ones who teach her about politics. “I learn everything from my parents, so I always assume that they’re right when they talk about politics,” Yoo said.

Rena Salsberg (8) said that she shares the same political beliefs as her family because they raised her with a set of core values that align with liberal agendas. Salsberg lived overseas in Japan and Singapore, which she says also contributed to her values which have shaped her political beliefs. “To me, it’s important to be open to others’ beliefs and ideas.  When you live in a foreign country you need to be open minded and try to understand how crucial it to respect others.

Having grown up in a politically active and liberal household, Meshu Malik (6) shares most of her parents’ political beliefs. Malik thinks that even if she hadn’t grown up in a liberal household, she would still be a Democrat because she agrees with socially democratic principles, she said.

Although they are all Biden supporters, Malik and her family engage in friendly debates in which some of family members play devil’s advocate and argue from the side of Trump supporters and the others argue from the side of Biden supporters, she said. “We have friendly arguments about topics like healthcare in order to hear both sides.”

According to a survey, 34 percent of MD students who participated in the poll said that they are more liberal than their parents, while only 15 percent of students are more conservative.

Ethan Furman (7) said his political beliefs are often a fusion of his parents, one of whom is a Democrat and the other a Republican. For example, his parents have different stances on the confirmation of Justice Barrett, and Furman’s beliefs are somewhere in between. “While I don’t think that the confirmation was fair, I still don’t support packing the court.” 

Furman said he identifies more as a Democrat than a Republican, because the only Republican president in his lifetime has been President Trump. “For the past four years we haven’t had a good Republican president, so my views are definitely biased towards the Democrats,” he said.

While Kaitlyn Fan (6) and her parents all support Biden, their political beliefs sometimes vary. Fan said racial justice is her priority in choosing which candidate to support, but it is not for her parents. “My parents think that it [racial injustice] is not actually that serious, but I think that it’s an emergency and needs to be changed immediately,” she said.

Social media also plays a role in shaping some MD students’ political beliefs, Henes said. 

“Everyone [on social media] is always talking about the impacts of Trump’s and Biden’s actions, and that continues to shape my own opinions,” Malik said. In addition, Malik said celebrities’ political opinions have influenced her own, oftentimes through a social media platform. However, unless she sees something really bad that Biden has done, Malik said her opinion won’t change very easily just based on social media.

Evie Steinman (7), who also supports Biden, said speaking to peers has influenced her political opinion. For an article in the HM Post, Steinman interviewed Jaden Jefferson, an 11-year-old political news reporter who has interviewed political figures such as Elizabeth Warren. Her conversation helped Steinman learn about politics and shaped some of her own beliefs, like the importance of local news, she said.

The school has also influenced Furman’s political beliefs, he said. “The school definitely [promotes] for social justice, so that’s made me pay more attention to it.”.

News sources can also play a role in shaping political stances, Emily Park (7) said. Park usually gets her news from CNN, NBC, and the New York Times, and these sources influence her opinions on different issues, she said.

Malik wants Biden to win because he will be better equipped to deal with COVID-19, she said. “President Trump has not done a great job with the country, especially considering coronavirus, so I support him because I want to protect the lives of Americans.” 

Neil Jain (6) wants Biden to win because he lives with his grandparents, and he believes that Biden has the better plan to address COVID-19, he said. “I wasn’t into politics before this week, but now I know from my parents that Biden will help us prevent exposing my grandparents to the virus.” 

Jain also said that the school has encouraged students to continue to develop their political beliefs with open minds. “My teacher encourages us to watch the news, but he has also taught us about how there are always different political opinions, with positives and negatives to both sides,” he said. 

This election has played a crucial role in sparking Steinman’s interest in politics, she said. “For this election, I’ve been watching the news and I’ve just started to form my own opinions,” she said. To continue to learn more about politics and develop her own beliefs, Steinman will continue to watch the news in order to get more information. Steinman also thinks that she will become more interested in politics as she gets older.