By Mason Votes Staff Writer Ethan Vaughan
The George Mason University student body is home to a diverse range of political views and an equally wide set of beliefs about how those views are formed.
The students interviewed denied the conventionally-held notion that people’s political positions are determined primarily by their parents’ affiliation.
“My family and my religion influenced my beliefs initially,” said sophomore Tyler Stevens. “But that changed.”
Stevens said that, over time, he thought young people were likely to adopt political ideals opposed to their parents’.
“I definitely don’t follow the church so much,” Stevens said. “Entering high school, I started developing different views. My parents decided to start going to church more, and that kind of motivated. Everybody there put such a big emphasis on God and the Bible, and they took the Bible too literally. It had a negative impact, and it really turned me off. You can’t force someone to think a certain way.”
Stevens thought that friends’ political leanings were more important, theorizing that individuals gravitated to people whose ideas mirrored—and reinforced—their own.
“My whole family’s Democratic, but that’s not the only reason I am,” said Senior Pujita Venkat. “That’s just a contributing factor. I went to a really liberal private school and most of my ideas came from my experience there.”
“I have always naturally tended to be liberal,” said Sean Jahan, a fourth-year graduate student. “I think it was more personality-driven than learned, although for most people it’s more nurture than nature. For me it was more nature.”
Overall, students tended to support President Barack Obama, confirming exit poll statistics from the 2008 election that showed 66 percent of 18-29-year-olds voting for the Democratic ticket.
“I wish health care reform was going through more quickly,” Venkat said, referring to the sentiment among some voters that the President is not enacting change fast enough. “But I can understand why it isn’t. There’s a lot of opposition. I honestly think it’s too early to judge him.”
Jahan said that political views were mostly set from an early age, and didn’t believe that subsequent life events in most cases had a major impact on them. “I don’t think that entering the workforce or starting a family really alters how you feel,” he said. “Most of my friends have the same political beliefs now that they did in college.”