Most of the increasingly loud voices in this election say that this is one of the biggest decisions the country has faced, but for one group it is even more important, because it is their first.
This year will be the first time that 18- to 21-year-olds, born between 1991 and 1994, will be able to exercise their democratic rights and vote for their own national leader.
While 24-hour news pundits keep repeating what they are sure young voters care about, the opinions shared on the Montana State University-Northern campus last week differed widely from both the pundits points and each other.
Like many young people, most of the students are excited about gaining a new freedom, though they are less excited about either of the candidates or having to lower their standards enough to vote for one of them.
“The choices kind of suck, ” Briar Tuss, a 19-year-old freshman from Lewistown, said. “But it’s kind of cool that you can vote. ”
Tuss said he hears a lot about how Mitt Romney is “trying to take all your money” or that Obamacare will take all of your money. In the Senate race between U. S. Sen. Jon Tester, Democrat, and U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, Republican, Tuss said he mostly just hears a lot of complaining.
Bryce Fox, an 18-year-old freshman from South Dakota, is also frustrated by the lack of ideas and by dishonest campaign tactics, which make the truth hard to find but can be entertaining.
“None of them seem to have any good ideas, ” Fox said. “Watching them argue (in the second presidential debate) was kind of funny. ”
Fox said that he has heard a lot of noise about how Obama is “anti-gun” and threatens the Second Amendment, but “I haven’t seen anything. ” Still, Fox said he is probably leaning toward Romney, but “it’s a toss up. ”
Another 19-year-old freshman, Kaylee Woll, is also conflicted about the race, because she wants to know what she’s talking about before making a decision.
“I just feel like I'm not educated enough to make a decision, ” Woll said. “(Voting) feels pretty cool. It makes me feel mature and older. I just feel like the people who aren't educated enough throw themselves into the election too quickly. ”
Despite being his first presidential election, 21-year-old senior Stephen Silva doesn’t plan on voting because he doesn’t see it making any difference.
“I figure whoever they want they're going to put in, ” Silva said. When asked who “they” were, Silva said, “Exactly. ”
Justin Wang, a 20-year-old Kalispell freshman, also doesn’t care about the election.
“I don't like any of them, ” Wang said. “They say one thing and do another, especially about wolves. That's my biggest issue. ”
Matt McKeen, a 19-year-old sophomore from California, has a similar singular focus.
“(I’m voting) Romney because I don't like the way Obama looks on Israel, ” McKeen said. “That's my only reason. Because Israel is God’s country. ”
No one mentioned student loans, or any of the other issues that young voters are supposed to be caring about. Their opinions seem to be as varied and open to ideas as most voters, though maybe without tough skin that allows desensitized veteran voters to care through the hateful volleys of slings and arrows that each election seems to bring.