College Students on New Hampshire

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In a special roundtable of college newspaper editors, Dante Mozie of South Carolina State University's The Daily Gamecock and Helen Hocknell of the University of New Hampshire's The New Hampshire discuss how campaign messages from various presidential candidates are influencing how they vote.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now, more on the youth vote from some young voters and up-and-coming analysts. This election, young people have been getting the full attention from the media, polls, pundits, candidates. Many campaigns have been using online and other strategies to reach younger voters.

To talk about this, we're joined in our studio by Helen Hocknell. She's a senior English and journalism student at the University of New Hampshire. She's editor of the school's newspaper, The New Hampshire. And also joining us, from ETV Radio in Columbia, South Carolina, is Dante Mozie. He's a senior English major and editor of the South Carolina State University paper, The Daily Gamecock.

Welcome to you both.

Ms. HELEN HOCKNELL (Student, University of New Hampshire; Editor, The New Hampshire): Thanks for having me.

Mr. DANTE MOZIE (Student, South Carolina State University; Editor, The Daily Gamecock): Good morning.

MARTIN: Helen, the primary in New Hampshire just ended. What's the sense that you're getting from people your age? Excited?

Ms. HOCKNELL: Well, everyone is still excited, but a lot of us are quite shocked. I mean, I've sort of given up predicting that stuff now. But everyone had Obama pegged as the winner.

MARTIN: Really? Why?

Ms. HOCKNELL: Yeah. He's just generated such excitement. I mean, from everyone I've talked to out there, I kind of wish I could be there to see it. He's just got this electric presence in a way that Hillary, you know, as much as she's certainly got a lot of support, just - he's just got that charisma with a lot of the younger voters.

MARTIN: What about on the Republican side? I hear Ron Paul is getting some traction.

Ms. HOCKNELL: As a matter of fact, we had a mock primary back in early December, and he got a - it was Giuliani who was the winner who - of course, he's sort of disappeared since. Giuliani got 29 percent. McCain had 20. And then Ron Paul had 19. So he definitely is pretty popular among the college age crowd.

MARTIN: Dante, what about you? South Carolina's going to be a big target later of this month. What's the buzz at your school so far?

Mr. MOZIE: Right now, I think people are excited about - especially by Barack Obama and the fact that he could very well be, you know, the, you know, the next black president. They're excited by the fact that, you know, someone is actually about to, you know, well - is in a position to become next - the black president of United States or…

MARTIN: First black president.

Mr. MOZIE: Yes, first black president. Yes. And I - and the momentum that the campaign has been getting - at least at South Carolina State University - is actually amazing. The charisma that he uses on the students do - Students for Barack Obama is - his movement is giving students, you know - giving, you know, student support - you know, giving them a chance to really voice their, you know, concerns to someone who actually will listen to them and listen to, you know, concerns that matter to them and the black community. So…

MARTIN: What about Hillary Clinton?

Mr. MOZIE: Hillary Clinton, I think, as far as black students, I know - with - Hillary Clinton - a lot of students are, you know - there are some students who still support him because - Bill Clinton - because he was so popular back in the 1990s and the early 2000s. But I think the momentum has already shifted to Barack Obama. When they see the fact that they can, you know, see this strong African-American that has - is in a very good position to possibly become the leader of the free world, and they're struck by the fact and they're attracted to that fact. So I think, really, the attractiveness of that has really shifted support to support Barack Obama.

MARTIN: Any gender gap issues? You know, we've been talking about this, about the fact that African-American women might be torn between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama because Hillary Clinton has made such a strong showing. I mean, she's really worked that vote. And it's a serious outreach, I mean, with the Greek organizations, and she's a strong presence with the sororities and in the beauty shops and so forth. Do you notice any gender gap developing among the students? Women going one way, men going the other way?

Mr. MOZIE: I don't see any gender gaps. I think it's all mostly for Barack Obama. And also, Michelle Obama, when she came to our campus, she made some trips to the beauty shops and to places, you know, where you normally see, you know, black, you know, African-Americans. So I don't see a gender gap as far as that's concerned. I think it's more less general support for Obama more so than Hillary at this point.

MARTIN: Helen, we have been talking so much and we hear so much about the sort of the ways that candidates are reaching out to your generation. What are some of the ways that they're reaching out? And do anything - does anything particularly make a difference?

Ms. HOCKNELL: Well, I mean, I could tell you for the last couple of weeks at school, that you could hardly move across campus without having somebody come up to you and ask oh, have you registered to vote? Have you thought about supporting so and so? I mean, there's Facebook groups about it now everything, and, you know, people - you can't go in the dining hall without somebody approaching you about it. So they've definitely been coming out in droves to try and get us registered and get us for one guy or another.

MARTIN: Is this - are these people your age?

Ms. HOCKNELL: A little of - a bit of the mixed. Some are - there are certainly a lot of UNH students I know that are working for one campaign or another right now. Some of them I talked to yesterday, they're all very excited. But - some of them were just adults that are, you know - or actual adults…

MARTIN: Just actual adults?

Ms. HOCKNELL: …as opposed to wannabe adults.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HOCKNELL: But, you know - I mean, it's a mix. But they're - they, I mean, they're absolutely camped out in our student union. They were all over our main street, you know, handing out flyers and that kind of thing. They were all over the campus.

MARTIN: And what about those old school sort of reach out? And what about the newer techniques? I mean, people think like that - the conventional wisdom is -among at least, you know, long-in-the-tooth people like me is stuff like "The Daily Show" makes a difference - making appearance on sort of Jon Stewart's show. John McCain's been on something like 10 times. Do you - does that matter, or is it just the stereotype of people like me have?

Mr. MOZIE: No, I'd say it does. I mean, it's, you know, it's cool to be on "The Daily Show." And it's, you know - that kind of thing - and people definitely pay attention to that. And actually Facebook, I've been sort of surprised. And it's hard to judge, because, you know, people like Ron Paul and most of their base are, you know, they're all over the Internet. But, you know, I'm always getting invited to a Facebook group for one thing or another for some, you know, political event that pull up - all of it from politicians who came so many times to our campus this fall. It was sort of ridiculous - oh, so-and-so's here? Oh, big deal. We saw something yesterday.

MARTIN: Well, send them my way. If you're bored with them, send them on down in my way.

Dante, you know, Barack Obama's done some things. He's been in Essence magazine. He's been in Vibe. He was, I think, on the cover of Vibe. He was on the "Ellen" show. You know, he actually busted a move. Is politics cool again?

Mr. MOZIE: I think so. I think politicians are really starting to embrace, you know, going on TV's talk shows like "The Daily Show" or, you know, going on the Facebook. Like, for example, with Ron Paul, a lot of his support is actually on YouTube. You have Barack Obama - millions of users on Facebook are, you know, with his campaign. So I really think that politics is really becoming cool again. It's really becoming attractive. It's really becoming a thing to watch -at least for the younger voters.

MARTIN: What about you, Helen? Is politics cool again? Do you just - is it -only the kind of the nerd girls and boys who are interested in?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HOCKNELL: Yes, us political nerds. No, it's absolutely a cool thing again. I mean, there's always going to be that sort of apathetic contingent that'll just be too cool to care. But no, it's - I mean, you can't help but get involved when, you know, these people are coming to your campus. I mean, if they're speaking into your student union and you're, you know, walking through it, you can't miss them. And so it's sort of hard not to get involved or hard not to care, especially in New Hampshire. We have such unique opportunity there.

MARTIN: Just very briefly, Helen. Is there an issue that you could point to that you think really engages your peers? Is there something when they think about voting that they think about whether they want to get involved in? Is there something that comes top of the mind?

Ms. HOCKNELL: Well, I mean, health care is certainly still a big issue. But it would definitely be anything environmental is absolutely at the forefront of our minds at UNH, in particular, just because we have such strong sustainability program and all that sort of stuff that we do at UNH to try to be, you know, to lower our carbon footprint and all that. And that was actually one thing that I heard a lot of buzz about right after the Republican debate in September. It was our - that first day of classes. And, you know, that's what I heard a lot of buzz about is that they wanted the Republicans to care more about that.

MARTIN: Okay. Dante, one or two-word answer. Is there an issue that comes top of the mind with the students that you talk to on your campus?

Mr. MOZIE: Paying for college. I really think that that's a main concern with students right now.

MARTIN: All right. Thanks so much.

Dante Mozie's editor of The Daily Gamecock at South Carolina State University. And Helen Hocknell is editor of the University of New Hampshire's newspaper, The New Hampshire. Thank you both so much.

Ms. HOCKNELL: Thanks for having me.

Mr. MOZIE: Thank you.

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