Across the entire state, the economy and jobs, government spending, terrorism and immigration were the issues Michigan residents cared most about, according to CNN exit polls. However, for students at the University of Michigan college affordability, women’s rights and the performance of the economy and job availability were their top issues, according to interviews conducted by Michigan Daily reporters during the day.
Though they didn’t align completely with residents overall, those issues — and those students — may have had a significant impact on at least the Democratic primary outcome, which saw U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) winning an upset victory over Hillary Clinton amid large turnout from college areas. In the lead-up to Tuesday’s primary, Clinton was projected to win by over a 20 percent margin.
In the Republican primary, frontrunner Donald Trump won the state with about 36 percent of the total vote.
Throughout Ann Arbor Tuesday, it was easy to find various people and groups walking around campus, telling people to vote and make their voices heard. At the Michigan League, a main polling spot for students, a total of 646 voters according to poll volunteers. The Michigan Union, another big polling spot, saw 711 voters as of 7:30 p.m., a half-hour before the polls closed, which the polling clerk said was the biggest voter turnout at the Union since the 2008 election.
Many students said they realized their priorities, especially the high emphasis placed on college affordability, would be different than statewide priorities due to their proximity to the issue.
LSA sophomore Yong-Joon Kim said a candidate’s platform for student debt played a large part in who he decided to vote for.
“Since I am a college student, one of the top things I was thinking about was college tuition. In my opinion, Bernie definitely promised a lot of things — he was promising college students that he would be reducing tuition and making college free,” Kim said. “But a lot of the cases I feel that Bernie’s ideas and his math just doesn’t add up, in my opinion.”
LSA sophomore Nicholas Kolenda, president of Students for Sanders, said he thinks Bernie’s attention to college affordability allowed him to perform well in Monday’s primary. Of the students the Daily talked to at various campus voting sites, the majority said they were voting for Sanders.
“It's daunting that Clinton has her current delegate lead, but it's not surprising as the first 15 or so states have been a plurality to majority Southern,” Kolenda said. “This is where Clinton naturally performs best as. [Her] campaign likely still has its best days ahead of it — many states in the Rockies, Pacific Northwest and parts of New England are heavily favorable towards him.”
Other than student debt, other issue students cited were social issues pertaining to women’s rights.
LSA junior Kendra Mantz said she sees Sanders as a candidate who respects women.
“Women’s rights is a huge thing for me. I consider myself a strong feminist and so having my own rights, such as my reproductive rights, being taken away from me or monitored by old, white men in the government, that doesn’t fly with me,” Mantz said. “I don’t like that. I appreciate that Bernie respects a woman’s right to control her own body”
In terms of women’s rights, LSA sophomore Anushka Sarkar, outreach director and event coordinator for Students for Hillary, noted that in terms of women’s rights, Clinton is the only candidate to frequently address safety for women on college campuses and halting the rise of sexual assault. The issue is a particularly prevalent one for the University, which is currently restructuring its sexual assault policy. She said she thought that emphasis contributed to the Clinton’s campaign overall lead in the race.
“I think we are getting to the point where, mathematically, it’s impossible for Sanders to win unless he gets every state by a 50 point margin,” Sarkar said. “I think the general direction her campaign is taking is less about villainizing other campaigns and more about why she is the best candidate.”
Other students said they placed a heavy importance on the performance of the economy, as many are graduating soon and need to find jobs — such as LSA senior Sunder Kannan
“The main issues that I’m considering are economic issues as they relate to unemployment among recent graduates,” Kannan said. “I’m graduating in May and so it does worry me about finding a job and paying for grad school.”
Despite the overwhelmingly Democratic voters, there were also individuals voting Republican at the polling stations Tuesday, though for varying reasons.
Business senior Jeff Yu said he voted on the Republican ballot despite identifying himself as a Democrat. Michigan election law allows voters to participate in either party’s primary without being registered to a specific party beforehand.
“I’m actually a Democrat, but because it’s an open primary, I am voting Republican just because I’m confident in both Democratic candidates,” Yu said. “And with the Republican party, I think there’s a better chance of swinging some delegates away from Trump.”
LSA junior Casey VanderWeide, a member of Students for Rubio, said she felt anti-Trump sentiment on campus and hopes that Rubio can eventually garner enough delegates to overtake Trump’s lead.
“I think Michigan is an important primary, especially with John Kasich in the race, to get momentum in the Midwest,” VanderWeide said. “I think it’s crucial to get support behind Rubio so he can defeat Trump. We don’t want to be a party of hate, like the one that Donald Trump is creating.”
However, some students were also in support of Trump Tuesday. Kinesiology freshman Joel Belfer said his vote was spurred by a desire for an outsider for the next president.
“I do believe in his strong leadership skills and I believe that he would definitely be a change from what we’ve seen recently in this country,” Belfer said. “I think (our country) is on the wrong track. We don’t win anymore. We have to start winning and becoming more of a superpower that we were years ago and I think that Trump will be able to do that.”