Student survey says: Governor who?

David Hutter

Two student leaders of Quinnipiac’s political organizations were surprised and dismayed that only 22 of 42 of their peers could identify their respective home state’s governor in an informal survey conducted last week.

“That kind of shocks me. Fifty percent seems really high not to be informed. More people should know who their governors are,” president of the QU Democrats club and junior political science major, Kristina Asselin, said.

To combat political apathy and ignorance, Asselin encourages students to attend weekly meetings of either the QU Democrats club or the QU Republicans club. There, they would have the opportunity to discover how governmental decisions impact them personally.

“Once you find out about politics, you realize how your governor affects your life. You kind of learn ‘Maybe I should pay more attention,'” Asselin said.

Brittany Sanders, vice president of the QU republicans and a Republican candidate for Hamden’s 1st District Council seat, was likewise shocked that nearly one-half of the surveyed students were unable to name their home state’s governor.

“It’s a sad reality,” Sanders said. “A lot of adults don’t even know. That’s why there’s a need for political activism on campus.”

Sanders said students can gain a greater understanding about their political reality by reading newspapers, watching TV news programs, discussing current events in class, and by attending the meetings of the QU Democrats club and the QU Republicans club.

The QU Republicans club meets Monday at 9 p.m. in Room 213 of the Student Center. The QU Democrats club meets Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Room 207 of the Student Center.

The survey also found that only five of the 42 students were able to identify Brittany Sanders as a candidate for Hamden’s 1st District Council, a jurisdiction that includes Quinnipiac University and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Sanders, nominated by the Hamden Republican Party, is campaigning against Democrat incumbent Matthew Fitch, on a platform to represent Quinnipiac student concerns in the larger community. Hamden, a town of 57,000, is comprised of nine districts.

Sanders’ campaign team registered about 2,300 Quinnipiac students by the Oct. 25 voter registration deadline. The election is Nov. 8, and the university will provide continual shuttle service from the Commons Bridge to the Miller Memorial Central Library, the voting site for the 1st District Council.

That so few students recognized Sanders as a 1st District Council candidate did not surprise Sean Duffy, assistant professor of political science at Quinnipiac.

According to Duffy, it coincides with a common phenomenon found throughout the American populace: citizens’ knowledge of elected officials and political candidates decreases from the national to the local level.

The finding that slightly more than half of the surveyed Quinnipiac students could name their home state’s governor actually puts them in the normal range on the political awareness spectrum among college-educated Americans, said Duffy.

“I think that’s pretty good. It’s probably about average for highly informed and educated Americans,” Duffy said.

Even so, the 2005 edition of “The Princeton Review” college ranking guide rated Quinnipiac students as the sixth most politically apathetic student body among the 361 schools the publication evaluated.

Duffy contends that this ranking should not be given too much precedence because about seven-tenths of the institution’s students know exactly what disciplines they are going to study before their freshman year. Students not majoring in political science do not spend much, if an, time learning about their political reality because they are swamped with doing their course work, he said.

“About 70 percent of Quinnipiac students come here to enroll in a specific program. They are very much engaged in their programs of study,” Duffy said.

Duffy says that students who want to be knowledgeable of their political realities can profit by reading newspapers. He has discovered, however, that such behavior is not commonplace.

“I’ve noticed students don’t read the newspaper. Everyone between the ages of 12 and 25 tends not to read them,” Duffy said. “In terms of engaging students, I think a good place to start is looking through a newspaper once or twice a week.”

Rosa Latora, a sophomore nursing major, said she did not vote in last year’s presidential election. At the same time, she recognizes the opportunity that she, and all American citizens , wield by virtue of living in a nation governed by a representative democracy.

“I don’t have any political views. But being a citizen, voting is something you have the opportunity to do. You should take advantage of it,” Latora said.

Latora said she plans to vote in Hamden’s 1st District election this year.

Steve Forni, a sophomore journalism major, said he plans to vote for Sanders in the town’s 1st District election. “I care about student needs and I think she’d represent them,” Forni said.

But not all Quinnipiac students had the same mindset.

Luke Hill, a sophomore media production major, said he is not going to vote in the upcoming local election. “I’m lazy and I don’t care,” Hill said.