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BC High Mock Election: What Do These Numbers Signify?

Nicholas Sommer '17, Contributor

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Question 1The results of the BC High 2016 Primary Poll are in! Let’s break down some of the data.

Q1: How do you identify politically?

Just over 1 out of every 3 students in BC High identify as Republican. Just over 1 out of 5 are Democrats. And 2 out of 7 are Independents.

While it is well known that the BC High student population is very Republican, it is really interesting to see the actual percentages. Of the 839 respondents (839 of roughly 1300 Arrupe and high school students – the senior class did not participate), 35.76% identify as Republican. Comparatively, out of all Massachusetts voters who register as either Republican or Democrat, 23.48% are Republican (https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleenr/enridx.htm). This is a sizable difference that demonstrates that the BC High community is generally much more conservative than the rest of Massachusetts.

The most interesting statistic in this chart is the number of Independents. Nearly 30% said they identify as Independent, which I found very surprising; however this is not unprecedented. When we created this poll, I assumed that the vast majority of respondents would identify as either Republican or Democrat. I expected only about 10% to choose Independent because Independents receive almost no news attention, and many people forget that it is possible to be neither Republican nor Democrat. In Massachusetts, however, roughly 50% of all registered voters are “un-enrolled” – a.k.a. Independent (https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleenr/enridx.htm). The BC High poll results, therefore, do make sense, and that so many people chose not to identify with either party may suggest that people do not like having to conform to a certain group. The ability to keep an open-mind is very important and it is reassuring to see that so many students do not hold preconceived allegiances.

Q2: Regardless of your answer to the previous question, who do you believe should be the next president?

Ah yes, Mr. Trump.

The real-estate mogul and reality TV star leads yet another poll by a wide margin. Yet when I talk to kids, few if any support him outright. It is clear that Trump has tapped into a vein of discontent within many Americans and his unconventional style is somehow working. He is not afraid to say things that other candidates would never dare say, and people appreciate his blunt style. He is seen as an outsider who is not beholden to the political establishment or political correctness, and he possesses a very black-and-white world-view that makes people either love him or revile him.

Despite the results, within the political clubs at BC High, there seems to be a consensus, especially among conservatives, that Trump is a dangerous candidate who cannot be trusted with the presidency. From what I have heard, very few people characterize themselves as avid Trump supporters, but those who say they would consider voting for him say so because they believe Trump to be a better option than Clinton.

Could the number of people who thought it funny to vote for Trump have exaggerated the poll’s results? Maybe. But nevertheless, the time to treat Donald Trump as a joke has long since passed. He is now the Republican nominee for president and he has received the endorsement of the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, as well as the support of many more prominent Republicans, including former presidential hopefuls Chris Christie and Ben Carson.

Despite his popularity, Politifact has declared that 61% of Trump’s statements are either “False” or “Pants on Fire” False (http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/). In many ways, it seems that Trump has tried extremely hard not to become president, yet people continue to vote for him. He has insulted women and immigrants, declared that Muslims should be banned, claimed that he will build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, stated that the use of nuclear weapons are not off the table, etc, etc., but his poll numbers never seem to falter. All said, BC High’s poll numbers are not unprecedented, – Trump did win 49.3% of the Massachusetts Republican Primary vote in March (http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/massachusetts) – but nevertheless, the fact that he remains so popular is very troubling.

From my own personal experience, a majority of Democrats at BC High are Bernie supporters who are lukewarm at best about Clinton. Throughout many of the primaries, Bernie has averaged around 71% of the Democratic youth vote (http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/massachusetts), therefore it is not surprising that he has widespread support among BC High students. While they would prefer to see Bernie receive the nomination, people are beginning to grudgingly accept that he does not have a chance of overcoming Hillary’s delegate count. In the same way people support Trump because they cannot fathom Hillary being elected, many Democrats will likely begin to support Hillary because they cannot fathom Trump being president. Clinton certainly has plenty of experience, but many doubt her honesty, and young people especially despise her desperate appeals to youth. Although she is widely seen as the lesser of two evils, moving forward it will be interesting to see whether or not Clinton will be able to gain the respect and passion of Bernie supporters after the Democratic Convention.

The dark horse to watch is Gary Johnson. As the Libertarian candidate, he received 4.41% of the total BC High vote, but as the election cycle shifts from the primaries to the general election, it will interesting to see if some voters begin to support him. If it ends up being a close race between Clinton and Trump, the extent of Gary Johnson’s popularity could possibly determine the outcome. Will he take away votes from Trump, or will he take them away from Clinton?

Q3: How important are these election issues to you?

The graph for this question can be a little deceiving, but it reflects a general truth. It depicts for each issues the percentage of people who chose “#1 Most Important Issue” instead of the other answer choices, which explains why the total adds up to more than 100 (see the data table for the complete results). Nevertheless, it is clear that terrorism is the most important issue on students’ minds. This is unsurprising, especially since a majority of Americans agree that terrorism, namely ISIS, is the most important issue facing America; it consistently out-polls the economy by a slight margin.

The majority of people consider most of the remaining issues “Very Important,” which is reassuring because it demonstrates that students value these issues. By percentage, immigration topped the “Very Important” rankings, which makes sense considering all the talk about border security and “building a wall.” What I find surprising, however, is the percentage of students who consider gun control and LGBT Rights “Not Important.” There are three likely explanations for this: either students do not care about these issues, they interpreted the question differently (gun’s rights advocates could have ranked gun control as their number #1 Most Important or Not Important, depending on how they interpreted the question), or, students do not consider them important because the issues do not affect them directly. From the data it is hard to determine which is the correct answer.

This data table has a lot to unpack, and I encourage you to take a closer look at it. I will say, however, that I was glad we created an “I Do Not Know Enough” answer choice because the substantial number of students who chose this option demonstrates that they took these questions seriously and answered honestly.

Q6: Are you satisfied with the current rules and methods that each party uses to select their candidate for the presidency?

These results were very surprising. I thought that much more than 50% of respondents would say that they are unsatisfied with the primary process. In recent weeks, there have been many complaints and calls to reform the primary process from both the Bernie and Trump campaigns. Both claim that the process is “rigged” and unfair. Their supporters generally agree with the campaigns, yet our results differ from that trend. The main reason for this is probably that most students have not followed the primaries closely enough to have strong opinions either way about the process. Having an “I Do Not Know Enough About This Issue” option may have been helpful here, but these are the results we received. Barely over 50% are satisfied with the current primary methods while just under 50% are not.

Many Democrats have argued that superdelegates have too much power and that they give Clinton an unfair advantage. Conversely, Trump has argued that the Republican system is rigged towards establishment candidates, which creates an unfair playing field for outsiders like himself. There have also been more general complaints from political analysts about the Republican Party’s “winner take all” policy because it seems to undermine democracy and the power of each person’s vote. Additionally, typically only very impassioned voters actually turn out to vote in the primaries. Less passionate voters tend to be more moderate, and they make up the majority of general election voters. Therefore, the fact that they do not vote as reliably in primaries undermines the legitimacy of the entire process.

Considering all the issues with the primary process, it will be interesting to see if the Republican or Democratic Parties decide to change their primary rules before the next election.
Question 5 Question 6 Question 4

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BC High Mock Election: What Do These Numbers Signify?