Economy Bogs Down Other Issues For Young Voters

In 2008, Renee Montagne talked to Martinique Chavez, 18, at a presidential debate party in Albuquerque, N.M. At the time, Chavez was undecided but leaning towards John McCain. Four years later, we catch up with her as she prepares to graduate from college and faces a tough economy. They're joined by Martinique's 18-year-old brother Zeke, a Ron Paul supporter.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep with Renee Montagne.

During the last presidential election, Renee sat down with Martinique Chavez. Her family was hosting a debate-watching party in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Martinique was a high school senior, getting ready to vote for the first time.

MARTINIQUE CHAVEZ: I've been swaying towards McCain this entire election. And after watching these debates, I've become more undecided, because I think that I need to wait until another debate and see and learn more of the facts.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Now Martinique Chavez is a college senior, getting ready to face a very tough job market. So we decided to ask her what she's thinking about this presidential election. And with Martinique is her younger brother Zeke, who's getting ready to vote in his first election.

Thank you both very much for joining us.

M. CHAVEZ: Thank you for having us.

ZEKE CHAVEZ: Thank you for having us.

MONTAGNE: So let's begin with you, Martinique. Did you indeed end up voting for John McCain in 2008?

M. CHAVEZ: Yes, I did.

MONTAGNE: And obviously he didn't win that election. But before we talk about this year's election, give us an idea of how your life has changed in the last four years. Back in 2008, as we said, you were still a teenager.

M. CHAVEZ: Correct. These four years of college have completely transformed my life. I've moved out. I'm now living on my own, paying my own bills, really feeling the weight of our economy. And I'm hoping to go to Georgetown for law school. And it's almost a fear to graduate, because I'm not sure what's going to be available to me.

MONTAGNE: Zeke, what kinds of things are you concerned about?

Z. CHAVEZ: My main concerns are really about the economy and about foreign policy. And I really want to focus on civil liberties this time around. Last election cycle, that was one of the things I really - even though I wasn't old enough to vote, I really participated in the discussion as best as I could. And the candidate actually I feel really represents the real defense of civil liberties is Dr. Ron Paul. And the reason I really strongly support him is because he's against the wars. And he's, you know, when he's been in office he's actually done the things he's said he was going to do.

MONTAGNE: Turning back to you, Martinique, what about you in terms of a candidate?

M. CHAVEZ: I would say I'm a little bit in the middle, because I am a registered Democrat now. Top three candidates, because like I said, I am in the middle on a lot of my beliefs, so not one candidate's going to represent all of those - Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Obama.

MONTAGNE: Which means that you're going to have to make a choice from quite a range.

M. CHAVEZ: Exactly. It's going to be kind of giving up one thing for another.

MONTAGNE: Now, Zeke, if you're a supporter of Ron Paul, how much attention have you paid to Iraq and Afghanistan and to Syria, questions about intervening or not intervening?

Z. CHAVEZ: Intervention, yeah.

MONTAGNE: Those sorts of questions, how large do they loom in your choice?

Z. CHAVEZ: They loom very strongly. I mean, I know a lot of people who are in the ROTC programs. And I've come to the realization that when we go to war, you know, the older people don't fight the wars. We do. And we can't afford it right now.

We are $14 trillion in debt. And right now I'd rather have that money that's going overseas be spent on, you know, something here. You know, there's a saying: We're being taxed to blow up bridges in Iraq, while ours are falling down at home.

MONTAGNE: What about issues that some people are very passionate about, what are considered social or cultural issues, questions of gay marriage or abortion, those sort of questions - would they affect how either of you votes?

M. CHAVEZ: Actually, my brother and I were having this discussion...

Z. CHAVEZ: Moments before we talked to you.

M. CHAVEZ: ...about 20 minutes ago. The reason I am a registered Democrat is because I am pro-choice. I believe in gay marriage. You know, as a woman I believe that I do not want the government deciding what I can or cannot do medically with my body.

MONTAGNE: And Zeke?

Z. CHAVEZ: Right now my main focus is going to be on the economy, because, you know what, we can worry about the debate on abortion later. We can worry about the debate on gay marriage, which, yes, it's a very important one, mind you, I'm not saying that it's not. But right now we are $14 trillion in debt. I'm more concerned about that right now, because my kids' future is in jeopardy right now.

MONTAGNE: Martinique Chavez, it's nice hearing from you again, four years later, new presidential election. And Zeke Chavez, your brother, glad to talk to you.

Z. CHAVEZ: Thank you so much.

M. CHAVEZ: Thank you so much.

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