Students know little about Hillary Clinton, potential candidate
Hillary Rodham Clinton may be gearing up for a presidential run in 2016, but despite all the media buzz surrounding her candidacy, even the most politically active students do not actually know much about her career. In December, we conducted an unscientific survey on awareness of and youth attitudes toward Secretary Clinton as part of an Aresty project conducted under the supervision of Ruth B. Mandel. Sixty-six Rutgers students, selected at random, completed questionnaires distributed at tables in the Busch and Douglass Student Centers. Survey results unsurprisingly revealed that college students know relatively little about Secretary Clinton’s career. For example, almost two-thirds of 29 female and 37 male respondents believed that she served as the president of the Women’s Political Caucus. Only half knew that she was once the first lady of Arkansas. Ten percent believed she was the governor of New York. One-third thought she was the speaker of the House of Representatives. She may be popular, but for many students, her qualifications are unknown.
The word association section of the survey, in which we asked respondents to list words and phrases that came to mind when they thought of Secretary Clinton, were also telling. Predictably, “woman,” “Democrat” and “president,” were common options. Some, however, were more critical — “sociopathic,” “power-hungry,” “Benghazi” and “she is a communist” were also among the responses. Some even bordered on outright sexism: some students put “shrew” and “screechy voice” as their primary choices.
What does this mean for Secretary Clinton’s campaign if she chooses to run for president? It may well help her, because if people support her, it doesn’t matter why. An uninformed electorate is an easily manipulated electorate. Her opponents could easily bring up scandals, from Benghazi to Whitewater, and a vast majority may lack enough context to understand the situations. We found that most of our respondents knew of Monica Lewinsky, but what does it say about American voters when more of them are familiar with a scandal than with Clinton’s actual credentials? Regardless of one’s personal opinions about Clinton, the fact remains that she is a very strong presidential contender for one of the two major political parties. Millennials are, quite literally, the future of America, and we ask you to ask yourself: Isn't it your responsibility to know basic facts about the woman who might run the country in a year and a half?
Nicholas Hansen is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science with a minor in general history. Kiranjot Kaur is a School of Arts and Science senior double majoring in planning and public policy and political science. Rachel Moon is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in planning and public policy. Prama Verma is a School of Arts and Sciences senior double majoring in political science and economics with a minor in South Asia studies.