Directions: Read the piece below and watch the video (see transcript) for a chance to see teen reporters interview candidates in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race about key issues on young people’s minds. Then answer the discussion questions — all based around media literacy in celebration of Media Literacy Week — towards the end of the page.
Voter turnout could be the defining factor in this year’s midterm elections. One group in particular, young voters, has the potential to affect the election results — they just need to turn up on Election Day.
Less than one in five (15 percent of people under 25 in Virginia) cast their ballots in the 2014 midterm elections, according to the Federal Census Bureau. This year may be different, however, with Trump as president and a substantial divide on issues like immigration and gun control — two issues young people care deeply about.
A recent poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government found that upwards of 40 percent of young people under 30 plan to vote this year—doubling 2014’s numbers.
“Your voice and your vote are so incredibly important and you can, as one person, make so much change and difference,” said George Mason Democrats Communications Director Ashley Stewart.
In Virginia, NewsHour’s Student Reporting Lab from Dominion High School spoke to Senatorial candidates, Republican Corey Stewart and incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine about immigration and gun control.
Stewart, former Trump Virginia chairman, supports the president’s border wall.
“We need to remove criminal illegal aliens, those who are committing crimes, we need to focus in on that element,” Stewart told Student Reporting Labs correspondent, Morgan Fischer.
Kaine, on the hand, believes that young people are looking for reform, not border walls, telling Fischer, “[Young people] deeply believe in the equality of every person, that it shouldn’t matter what religion you practice, the accent you have, the shade of your skin.”
Guns continue to be a crucial issue for young people in regards to school safety. After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many young people have been energized to advocate for stronger gun legislation.
Kaine, who was Virginia’s governor during the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, believes in instituting the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, to identify those prohibited from purchasing firearms.
Stewart believes in focusing more on school security, advocating for School Resource Officers and protecting rights of gun owners.
According to the Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy, Senator Kaine holds a 61-18 percent margin over Stewart for 18 to 34-year-olds.
At campaign stops for both candidates, young people expressed how they felt about issues most critical to them. George Mason Democrats spoke on a wide range of topics that encouraged them to support Kaine, including women’s rights, the environment and college affordability.
“One of the most important is women’s rights and access to health care for women. It’s super important that for me that women have control of their own bodies,” said Kara Kline, president of the George Mason Democrats.
At Stewart’s campaign stop in Sterling, Virginia, young people in attendance were sparse but clear in their support for the Republican candidate and his goals for office. Stewart focused his talk that night on immigration and the border, as well as eliminating affirmative action in regards to college admissions.
“I can’t go for someone who’s not pro-life, according to my beliefs,” said Maria Torres, a young Stewart supporter. “We need someone who will support our president.”
Regardless of the outcome, young people are energized to mobilize and let their voices be heard this election season. The big question remains: will they head to the polls on November 6?
This story was written and produced by Morgan Fischer, Alison Pataky, and Karen Ramos at Dominion High School in Sterling, Virginia. Instruction provided by Student Reporting Labs Connected Educator Mitch Schwartz. Mentorship provided by Kristy Choi, Briget Ganske and Rawan Elbaba at the PBS NewsHour.
1. Essential question: How important was it for NewsHour’s teen reporters to interview both Senate candidates?
2. What issues discussed in the video are important to you? Explain your response.
3. What is one question you would like to have asked the candidates that is notmentioned in the video? Explain.
4. What media outlets have you watched, read or listened to in order to learn about the midterm elections? (Why is Twitter or Facebook not considered a news outlet? What purpose does social media serve when it comes to the news?) Why did you choose those news organizations?
5. What is journalism? What do journalists do?
6. What has been your general impression of how the news media has covered the 2018 election? What stories have you seen that you think were done well? Why was that the case? What stories do you think were poorly reported on? Explain your response.
The 2018 midterms mark the first time most of those born in the year 2000 can vote in a national election. The PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab’s Mason Berger reports on how organizations in Florida are trying to mobilize young voters around issues like the cost of college and gun violence. Watch “How first-time voters are being mobilized in Florida” and read the transcript here.
Watch this Student Reporting Labs video: What are the 2018 midterms about (see transcript)
Watch this Student Reporting Labs video: What can be done to motivate young voters? Students answer (see transcript)
Watch this Student Reporting Labs video: Ask a teenager: What are the 2018 midterms about?
Visit PBS NewsHour Extra for more education resources designed to help teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories. You can read the original story here. @NewsHourExtra