In New York City, opinions on the U.S. presidential candidates are as diverse as the city itself.
Some New Yorkers are pro-Donald Trump, like Jane Jimenez. “I think he’s a good businessman and I think, financially, we need someone with that type of experience,” she said.
New Yorker Sharon Simpkins on the other hand, is not a big fan. “Trump? Forget it. We’re not gonna talk about him,” she said.
But at a rally this past Wednesday in Washington Square Park, there was no mistaking who brought everyone out. A reported crowd of 27,000 showed up to support Bernie Sanders, brandishing homemade signs and proudly sporting “Bernie 2016” stickers. Among the crowd were many young, first-time voters like New York University student Azza Awad.
Sense of history
“I wanted to be a part of history. It’s my first time voting ... and being in the flesh will make this more surreal, the whole voting process,” said Awad. As a young Muslim, Awad also felt Sanders was more tolerant than other candidates. “He makes me feel like an American, and that’s, like, the best thing that you can feel, especially during these times.”
“He doesn’t want to profile us like some of the other candidates do,” Awad added.
Another NYU student, Rose Fitzmaurice, said she felt she needed to attend: “I think that it’s really important to show that there’s a lot of support for him physically, because I don’t think it’s really being shown in the media right now.”
Framed by the historic Washington Square Arch, rock bands Vampire Weekend and the Dirty Projectors performed to an energized crowd. Young supporters were eager to explain why Bernie Sanders was their pick for president.
"He’s had a really consistent message, starting back from when he was part of the civil rights movement," said NYU freshman Stephanie Hauck.
For Nitza Epifanio, who attends John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the rising cost of college tuition was another reason to support Sanders. “Bernie’s fighting for us to get a free education, but of good value. And I think that will not also affect me, but also future generations that will be going off to college,” said Epifanio.
Other attendees came out in the hopes of being persuaded to vote one way or the other.
No decision yet
Student Katie Ho was undecided between Hillary Clinton and Sanders. "I'm in between. I've always really liked Hillary Clinton because she’s a powerful woman and that’s what our country needs. But I also really do like Bernie and what he stands for."
Out on the streets, other young voters raised more specific concerns. Maxine Armstrong was excited to be voting for the first time and wanted a candidate sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community.
"I think trans, especially trans black women, are dealing with a lot of discrimination," noted Armstrong. “Bernie has spoken about the trans community and the LGBT community and I haven’t heard anything from Hillary.”
New Yorker Jennifer Jones wanted more specifics on employment opportunities for minorities. "Hillary Clinton talks about equal pay for the same job and things like that, but most minorities, many of us just want a good job," she said.
While their issues may vary, these voters can all agree that participating in the electoral process is vital.
NYU student Melissa Bruno-Piverger emphasized, “Whoever you’re voting for, just vote. Because voter turnout is horrible in the U.S. So honestly, if you’re Republican, you want to vote Trump, fine. Just vote.”