Political Atmosphere at Indiana University

Indiana University Students

By Lauren Stanley
By Lauren Stanley
Unigo Campus Rep at Indiana University
Oct. 15, 2008

Chalked sidewalks, voter registration booths, fliers and enthusiastic partisans have crowded the Indiana University campus this fall, with Democratic and Republican parties alike striving to register and inform as many students as possible before Election Day.

As students across the country tend to lean toward the liberal side of politics, IU College Republican’s chairwoman, Chelsea Kane, admitted to being part of the minority on campus.

“When you’re the minority you always have to scream louder,” said Kane, a junior majoring in psychology and political science. “We have to work twice as hard as the democrats to make our views heard, because what they have to say is already accepted blindly by many on campus. A lot of people come to college and adopt liberal views because it’s simple to do so. Our job is to let people know there are different ways of looking at things.”

Despite being snug within a historically Republican state (Indiana’s 11 electoral votes have gone to Republican presidential candidates since 1964), many Indiana University students have rallied around Democratic hopeful Barack Obama, forming what is known as the “Campaign for Change.” The group is a combination of the IU College Democrats and an organization their president, Anna Strand, helped found called “IU Students for Barack Obama.” “Students are so excited and engaged in this election,” said Strand, a senior majoring in political science and art history. “They are ready to see a change and we are trying to give them access to that change with opportunities to get involved.”

Both IU Democrats and Republicans claimed their candidate came out on top of the second presidential debate Tuesday night, while political science professors such as William Bianco and Ted Carmines told the Indiana Daily Student the debate was a tie.

“I think that winning a debate means that you convince some of the other guy’s supporters to vote for you,” Bianco told the IDS, “and I don’t think either of them won the debate in that sense.”

IU Democrats seem to have the advantage when it comes to getting return support from their candidate, with Barack Obama’s campaign funding a Dave Matthews Band concert last fall at no charge to students. Obama also has made multiple appearances on campus.

“The Obama campaign’s recognition of youth is both informative and appealing to a younger audience,” said Strand on the candidate’s attempts to captivate students. “Many have rallied around him and gotten more involved in this election because of it.”

Both organizations hold regular meetings, make representatives available on campus to inform students, and host speakers, such as Kal Penn for the Democrats, and Richard Murdoch for the Republicans.

Audrie Garrison, editor in chief of the Indiana Daily Student, has also seen an increase in politics on campus, saying it is unusual to not have a political piece on the front page.

With two staff members whose sole jobs are to cover the election, the IDS is making sure to put the election in the spotlight, regularly covering both the Republican and Democratic groups formed in favor of the candidates. The IDS also sports a banner across the front page, which states the number of days remaining to register to vote.

“[The banner] is something we wanted to do because our job is to inform people and make sure they know about important things, and what’s more important than the election,” said Garrison, a senior majoring in journalism and political science. “Our job is also to encourage civic engagement. We want to make sure if someone doesn’t register to vote, it’s not because they didn’t know.”

Attempting to reach and inform all audiences, the College Republicans have made presentations to sororities and fraternities on the presidential candidates, and both the Republicans and Democrats have made similar appearances in the residence halls.