Professor Explains why students are attracted to Populism

Stephen Pelletier

Staff Writer

With Primary season at its peak, many voters are showing their support for their candidates of choice and hitting the voting booths.

Many individuals choose a candidate believing they are the best fit for them or the country, but are our decisions more predictable from a sociological perspective?

“If one uses a system theory, one would find that students are flocking to the Sanders campaign because it is latently functional for them to do so,” said sociology professor Dan Polak.

The agenda of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is proving to be more alluring to college students than that of many other presidential candidates. With promises of free college, education and healthcare, many of the concerns of younger voters are being addressed.

“College students have again begun to see where the power is in this country and where the control is and are deciding that joining the Sanders campaign would be a way to effect social change,” said Polak.

According to Polak, by using the conflict theory, students can understand the sociological reasoning behind voters choices. Conflict theory relies on the assertion that limited resources are distributed unequally into two groups: the groups with power and the groups without power.

“I think many Americans are afraid and anxious. If an individual uses these feelings to their advantage, then it will probably work well,” said Polak.

Sanders’ support likely comes from his background of not identifying with politician norms. Sanders has identified himself more as an individual then part of the typical Democratic representative.

Another candidate similarly holding support for a likewise reason is Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Trump’s background in business can lead skeptics to feel unsure of how he will be able to lead by following the rules of federal government while he simultaneously leads his own multi-national corporation.

Individuals who lead in a manner in which they bypass bureaucracy to achieve their own personal agenda is a practice called “realpolitik.” This can be led with varied results pending on the outcome of the individual’s agenda. Nonetheless, by going around bureaucracy – in this case, Congress – the individual is violating federal laws for governing and overseeing their powers.

Many of Trump’s supporters appear to be coming from more rural regions of the country. While it is not a one to one ratio of rural residents to conservative ideals, a trend is still noticeable. This is due to the fact that many individuals find themselves affected in their daily lives by presidential decisions.

People in these regions are affected less in an ideological manner and more in a physical one.

“We’re not talking about gun-control as an abstraction, we’re talking about gun-control’s ability to affect someone’s success in putting food on the table,” said Polak

With the standard of living being much more dependant on day-to-day presidential policies in rural areas, many individuals are seeking answers to their problems. For some students, Trump is the candidate answering those concerns.

Many critics of Trump assess his policies as having underlying themes of ethnocentrism, the belief that an individual’s race is superior to another. This raises concern as to why many Americans are overlooking the fact that some of these policies in Trump’s agenda are ethically controversial.

There have been other powerful individuals throughout history who have found the scapegoat and used fear to win favor over others.

The country keeps in mind on election days who students are voting for, but students stand more towards the importance of why they choose their presidential candidate.

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