Johns Hopkins students tuned in as presidential race nears end

Economy, health care among most important issues, students say

Since the fall semester began, students on the Homewood campus at Johns Hopkins University have been gearing up for Election Day.

Political conversations are picking up. Two student groups, the Hopkins College Democrats and the Hopkins College Republicans, have organized campus events, debate viewing parties, and voter registration efforts.

As voters go to the polls today and election season comes to a close, many students are looking forward to watching the results come in.

"Our group has worked really hard to elect and re-elect Democratic officials over the course of this campaign cycle, and it's been great to see the Hopkins community excited about politics," said junior Matt Stewart, co-president of Hopkins College Democrats.

Added senior Cristina Apgar Pastor, co-president of the Republican student group: "The College Republicans will be getting together to watch the results come in, and with some luck we will also be celebrating numerous senatorial victories as well as that of Mitt Romney."

To promote political engagement over the past few months, both groups have organized programming on campus and in the community. They co-hosted viewing parties at Nolan's for the three presidential debates between Romney and President Obama.

"These events were great for bolstering the political energy on campus and creating excitement around Tuesday's elections," Apgar Pastor said.

The Hopkins College Democrats also organized canvassing trips to Virginia, registered more than 600 Hopkins students to vote, and volunteered at the phone bank downtown. Today, the group is providing transportation to local polling sites for students.

What issues are on the minds of Johns Hopkins students as they go to the polls? Several said they are focused on the same issues that a May poll of CNN readers indicated matter most to American voters in general—the economy and health care.

"No matter your age, gender, or background, there's one thing on everyone's mind: the economy," said sophomore Nikhil Gupta, an international studies major from Bethesda, Md. "As a college student who hopes to be employed in a few years, I am no exception."

Shaefer Whiteaker, a junior from Scottsdale, Ariz., agreed that the economy is the most important issue.

"I am graduating soon and am displeased with how the current economy has been handled," said Whiteaker, who cast an absentee ballot for Mitt Romney. "I feel that Governor Romney has the necessary background in economics and business to help the economy."

Leah Barresi, a sophomore public health studies major from Wakefield, Mass., said she believes health care is the most important issue in this election.

"I'm voting for Barack Obama because of his health care policies and his support for women's reproductive rights," she said.

Students also mentioned foreign policy, energy, and social issues as important topics.

"Our world is getting increasingly smaller," Gupta said. "The decisions of one country have deeper effects on others, and people are connecting and communicating with others halfway around the world. Given this phenomenon, I think our foreign policy is critical now more than ever."

Max Marshall, a freshman engineering major from Pittsfield, Mass., said he was most interested in the candidates' positions on climate change and alternative energy resources.

Sophomore John Cotoia, a molecular and cellular biology major from Oceanside, Calif., said that Maryland ballot Question 6, a same-sex marriage referendum, is important because it "highlights an opportunity to set a standard and make a national statement of equality and understanding. In this election, I am voting for equality of life, liberty, and happiness."

Erica Zehnder is a sophomore economics major from Elk Grove, Calif. Read more of her work at Hopkins Interactive.