Past presidential election hype at Mount Holyoke College

BY MICHALA SAWYER '17

1960

On Oct. 7, 1960, Mount Holyoke News published the results for the campus mock election. Nixon won by a two-to-one margin over Kennedy and reflected the actual voting results later published in November of that year. The students overwhelmingly favored Nixon over Kennedy, with 92 percent of the student body participating in the vote. The faculty “were the only group voting … [that gave] a majority of the votes to Kennedy.” 

Nov. 4, 1960, Mount Holyoke News published a poll about student and faculty voting trends over the years based on data collected by political science professor Victoria Schuck. The results showed that in the 1960 election, 55 percent of the faculty and administration and 32 percent of students voted Democrat, while 45 percent of the faculty and administration and 68 percent of students voted Republican. The accompanying article stated, “Havard, Antioch, Holy Cross and Amherst students are reported favoring Kennedy, while Smith, Yale and Hamilton are supporting Nixon.” William and Mary College, Duke University and Cornell University also apparently favored Nixon.

1976

Oct. 28, 1976, the Mount Holyoke News, then called Choragos, endorsed presidential candidate Jimmy Carter for the ’76 election. The article stated that many students wished for different candidates to choose from. They reported, “we yearn for the charisma of John and Bobby Kennedy, the rebellious spirit of Gene McCarthy in 1968. However, we cannot abandon our responsibilities as registered voters simply by saying, ‘I don’t like the candidates,’ or ‘it doesn’t really matter anyway.’” 

In their editorial, the Choragos editorial board believed in the importance of voting and tfurthermore, endorsed Carter for president. They said, “in many ways Carter is trying to do that at which Franklin D. Roosevelt excelled: bringing together a wide coalition to move America out of a mood of political and moral ennui. The contrast is clear: we can choose change or we can choose stagnation.” 

1992

Mount Holyoke College also conducted a campus-wide poll for the highly contested 1992 presidential election. Bill Clinton was the clear winner with an overwhelming 73.2 percent of the votes. George H. W. Bush came in second with 11.9 percent. 720 students participated as well as 61 members of the faculty. Of the participants, 34 percent identified as Democrat, 29 percent as Independent and 12 percent as Republican; 25 percent were not registered. To accompany the poll results, Mount Holyoke News published an article on Oct. 29, 1992, entitled “Mount Holyoke Shows Her Support for Clinton,” written by Carla Bosco ’93 and Katie Weinstein ’93. The article established that at the time there were almost as many registered Independents as Democrats, showing “that Mount Holyoke students share the growing skepticism of the two main political parties” and that they “want to be free from the restrictions of belonging to a party in today’s political climate.” Judging by the results of the poll, the writers said, “it is a safe assumption that Mount Holyoke students are generally liberal.” 

People could write comments on the ballots used in the poll and they certainly spoke their minds about the candidates. One person wrote, “George Bush is pathetic, old and [a] colossal embarrassment to the U.S. Perot is an egomaniac, out of touch with the ‘common person,’ a liar and basically dangerous. Clinton therefore becomes the only best choice.” Interestingly, of the participants in the poll, 43 percent said that they were “unhappy/dissatisfied” about their choices in candidates and 61 percent of those who chose that option voted for Clinton. The article reported “this statistical evidence leads credence to the conclusion that a sizable majority of Mount Holyoke [students] are more likely to advocate liberal rather than conservative tenants but do not want to get tied down into committing to either party.” 

2000

Nov. 2, 2000, Mount Holyoke News printed in their Op/Ed section, “Election 2000: A look at the main candidates.” Deirdre L.I. Ewing ’01 wrote the article “Why I’m a Gore gal,” explaining not that she looked forward to voting in her first presidential election, something she had been looking forward to since she was nine, but how she felt like a vote for Gore was choosing the lesser of two evils. She said, “the only passionate belief which this election has inspired in me is my belief that [if] George W. Bush (or as I affectionately call him, Zippy the Pinhead) were elected president, the country would go to hell in a handbasket before the electorate could say ‘Doh!’” Ewing added that, “Is Gore inspiring? Is he the perfect candidate sent from above? Of course not. But he is a competent candidate, more so than his opponent. And at this point, competency is all I’m really looking for.” 

Also on that page, Catherine Hagget ’01 wrote “Why I’m a Bush Babe.” She said, “in this upcoming election, one candidate has consistently indicated that true power should belong to the individual, and that is Governor George W. Bush.” She referenced Bush’s policies on giving tax cuts and his views on failing social security as major reasons why she supported him as a candidate. Hagget also liked how genuine Bush acted during debates, and that he never wavered from his beliefs. She wrote, “the rhetoric of presidential campaigns is dizzying. Spinsters manipulate and exaggerate, and the public is left wondering what to believe. Because of this, I find the underlying ideology that candidates adhere to of greater importance than the nitty-gritty details of policy proposals.” She added, “on Tuesday, I am going to remember something that Mount Holyoke has always emphasized: empowered individuals are the source of positive change. I am going to vote for Governor George W. Bush, who echoes this message of hope.”

2008

Forthe Valentine’s Day issue in 2008, the newspaper did a two-page spread entitled “Fall in Love with Candidates.” On the Democratic side, “Barack Obama: You may Think He’s Inexperienced but He’ll Ba-rock Your World.” It listed various turn-ons, like hope, chili and change, and turn-offs, like “all those who question the awesome power of hope.” On the Republican side was “John McCain: He’d Tear Your Heart Out… but He Doesn’t Believe in Torture.” His turn-ons included the armed forces, victory in Iraq and singing “Bomb Iran” instead of “Barbara Ann.” His turn-offs included extreme notions like waterboarding and increased taxes. 

Mount Holyoke News also published an Op/Ed by Meg Massey ’08, the managing editor of content at the time, on Feb. 28, 2008. She wrote, “as much as I wanted to cast my vote for a woman, I knew that Clinton was not the right woman to break the barrier.”

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