Students should vote independently of societal cues

As the 2008 presidential elections approach, everyone is naturally beginning to examine his or her views on hot political issues. Especially for college students, many of whom will be voting in their first presidential election, voting will be an important part of their identifications as American citizens.

More importantly, first-time voters will establish their political views in a concrete setting because, when it comes down to the wire of the voting booth, they have to ultimately pick one candidate or the other.

In general, college students are known to be more liberal than adults. As your resident amateur psychologist, I can use logic to speculate many reasons why this might be the case.

Universities, especially liberal arts programs, are breeding grounds for new, forward-thinking ideas. Even if theories fall flat on their faces, the creator is sure to find some sort of support group to follow the idea to its death. Subsequently, many students play around with new ideas and different thought experiments, in an effort to figure out what they believe.

As independent college students, we generally want to branch out from our parents. College is a major part of developing the fundamental beliefs that carry into adulthood, and nobody admittedly wants to turn into their parents.

So, young adults turn away from their parents’ conservative ideas, and unfortunately, sometimes support the opposite just to spite them – when really, they should support the candidates they believe in. This is another reason that college-age voters may be considered more liberal than middle-aged voters.

An age old adage can be cited as another reason: To every generation that came before it, the current youth always seems more radical than the last.

First, it was Elvis that shook everyone up, then it was The Beatles who couldn’t buy their love and now it’s rappers that give our parents 99 problems. Opinions change over time, but sometimes they’re not evenly distributed, and so one generation’s interpretation of conservative and liberal ideas will differ from another generation’s.

Ironically enough, some of our values do trickle down but in a different way. For example, on issues such as abortion, many young girls opt for it because they don’t want to be single mothers with little ones of their own to support. Family values have changed for us.

We’ve seen from our parents’ generation that the divorce rate has sky-rocketed since the nuclear-family era of the 1950s. The single-parent family is not so uncommon – and it has different needs than a two-parent household.

Granted, all college students don’t fall into this bracket. In fact, many students in Texas, at a private university, fall into the conservative Christian stereotype instead.

The moral of the story is that, as new voters, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be tainted by the notions of how people believe we should think and react. Now is as good a time as any to develop ideas for ourselves and build a foundation of strong opinions before being corrupted by the bias of stereotypes and statistics.

As educated young people, we know stereotypes only have as much value as we let them. But we should also acknowledge that though statistics are helpful in telling us about the world around us, they shouldn’t, by default, tell us about ourselves.

Anahita Kalianivala is a freshman English and psychology major from Fort Worth. Her column appears Tuesdays.