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Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory/MEDILL

Chicago-area students shared their views on the impact of health and science on their vote for President.  [Clockwise from upper left: Bethanie Willis, Samantha Jacobs, Davis Engle and Eric Morales]

Healthcare and science policy swaying college vote for president

by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory
Oct 11, 2012

Area college students say healthcare and science policy are driving their presidential voting decisions. 

Chicago-area college students say. Tonight’s vice presidential debate may continue to shape sentiments for young voters who support the Affordable Health Care for America Act. 

An informal interview survey of DePaul and Northwestern university students illuminates a knowledge of health and science issues, a skeptical view of political rhetoric, and a desire for increased transparency and bi-partisan progress. 

Overall, 10 out of 12 students interviewed supported President Barack Obama’s healthcare policy over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s. This response is in contrast to the 45 percent approval rating for Obama’s handling of healthcare reported in April by the Harvard Institute of Politics. Harvard partnered with a survey consultant to conduct the web-enabled survey of 3,096 voters between the ages of 18 and 29.

“I think it should be a fundamental service of the federal government to provide equal access to healthcare for all of its citizens and it’s an idealistic view to assume somehow that the free market can do that,” said Alicia White, a 20-year-old Northwestern University environmental sciences major from Muncie, Ind.  She volunteered to work for Obama’s last campaign since she was too young to vote, she said.

Chase Eck agreed.

“I think the Republican discourse on Obamacare has really ignored a lot of the conservative points within the plan that’s made to make the free market work better,” said Eck, a 21-year-old Northwestern junior and first-time voter who claimed no party affiliation.

Eck, who said he was leaning towards Obama because of “stability and trust issues.”

“I don’t really know what the Romney plan is, so I’m inclined to trust the one that I know,” Eck said.

“What I like about the healthcare policy is that it will give women an opportunity to get free mammograms and other womanly things… because it’s really rare to have someone to support something that big,” said Samantha Jacobs, a 21-year-old DePaul journalism student and registered Democrat from California.

Although her insurance coverage would not be directly impacted by the potential repeal of Obamacare, Jacobs said that the issue is one that hits home in terms of her concerns about the welfare of family and friends. 

Many students see the advantage of eligibility for health insurance under their parents' insurance plans until age 26, an requirement of “Obamacare” that is already in effect.

But some would like to see increased assistance.

“I’m for Obamacare and I’m for universal healthcare 100 percent, but the idea of who pays for it is kind of like a big problem in my eyes,” said Davis Engle, a DePaul math and economics student from Denver.

A self-professed independent, Engle said he wasn’t pulling for either major candidate, however.

But Eck stressed the importance of Congressional elections in the coming vote to provide a base for action.

“The question is whether or not they can push the change through Congress, because no president actually has lawmaking powers,” Eck said. “However, they do have a really good power to change the tone and the rhetoric of the country, so to change the way we think about healthcare can be just as important as changing the laws around healthcare and, perhaps, more effective.”

Kathleen Bock, a Northwestern senior creative writing major and a pre-med student, said accuracy and accountability in science- and health-related political discourses concerns her.

“Every time I hear a politician say something untrue about science, my skin crawls,” Bock said.
Northwestern freshman Bethanie Willis, who said she has no declared party affiliation but is leaning towards Obama, had a similar take on the discourse following the night’s debate. She said Romney “had some valid points against” Obamacare, but criticized his argument.

“Romney didn’t seem like he had solid evidence to back up his plan,” Willis said.

While students’ opinions were split on the effectiveness of the debates in swaying their votes, most indicated that they are watching this year’s debates anyway. Keeping their passion for fact-checking and transparency in mind, though, it’s safe to say that every word counts.

Just ask Jamie Weil, a 21-year-old Northwestern economics and urban studies student.

The message she’d communicate to Obama and Romney if given the chance?

“We pay more attention than you think.”