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Weekend Brunch: Young Voters In Texas


With a little more than a week to go until the election, we wanted to reach out to different parts of the U.S. to find out what's getting people excited or frustrated or motivated to vote. Since this is WEEKEND EDITION, we thought the best way to do that would be to catch people when they're gathered together with friends having brunch and maybe talking a little politics. Last week, we took you to Idaho City, Idaho. This week, with the help of our friends and colleagues at State Impact and the technical assistance of Skype, we linked up with a group of young voters in Austin, Texas. Even though the state is deep red, Austin tends to vote blue. In 2008, Travis County voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama 64 to 34 percent. And the group we spoke with in Austin reflected that breakdown. Around the kitchen table were Daniel Hublein - he's a musician and graphic designer - Ezra Edwards - she's a recent graduate from Texas State now working as a DJ - and Ian Etheridge - he works at the University of Texas as a research technician and field biologist.

EZRA EDWARDS: Good morning.

DANIEL HUBLEIN: Good morning.

IAN ETHERIDGE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: I understand we're catching you at the breakfast table. What's cooking?

EDWARDS: We got some breakfast tacos going on here.

HUBLEIN: Little bit of coffee.

ETHERIDGE: Chips and queso.

MARTIN: Sounds like, you know, some good Austin fare. That's what you'd expect.

HUBLEIN: Yeah, absolutely.

MARTIN: So, I'd love for you three to give us a sense of Austin. What kind of place is it?

ETHERIDGE: It's hard to describe. It's a place where young people come to retire. It's really eclectic, it's youthful, it's growing. But there's lots of changes going on. It's not just the town that Willie Nelson founded anymore.

MARTIN: And Texas itself is a pretty red state. But Austin does lean to the left. Is that fair to say?

EDWARDS: This is Ezra. Yes, Austin very much leans to the left, absolutely.

MARTIN: With that in mind, I'd love to just kind of get some perspective from the three of you about how you're looking at this presidential election. How concerned are the three of you about the economy and how it relates to your own lives?

HUBLEIN: This is Daniel. I've become very concerned, I think especially when talking with my parents more recently, realizing that, like, by the time they were my age they were able to own a home. My dad was able to leave the advertising firm he worked for and start his own business. And those are both aspirations of mine that I don't feel like will be a reality for me any time soon.

EDWARDS: This is Ezra. Yeah, I am a recent college graduate and I probably have $30,000 in debt. So, yeah, it's definitely hard to have dreams, you know, about what you were saying about owning a house and buying a car any time soon. But, yeah, I haven't really seen that addressed by either of the candidates this year.

MARTIN: So, let's talk more specifically about the candidates and the campaigns. Does either candidate seem to be addressing the issues that you need him to address?

HUBLEIN: This is Daniel. I feel like for me neither candidate's really speak to me where I feel like they are a representative of, obviously, not my age group but who sort of truly understand what it's like to be a young person now.

EDWARDS: A young person who doesn't come from wealth. I mean, I grew up in a single-parent home. My mother still makes less than $25,000 a year. So, we grew up very poor. And you don't really see that represented in this presidential election.

MARTIN: What are the issues that you care about this election?

EDWARDS: Personally, I'm excited that the Democratic Party has added same-sex marriage to their platform. That's a huge step, I think, for gay and lesbians.

ETHERIDGE: This is Ian. And, you know, I'm kind of not that excited honestly. I see shades of gray a lot of times. And there are some major differences, but also for issues that I think will have far-reaching implications, there isn't that big of a difference between the two candidates. And, you know, I'm kind of would love for somebody to come in and kind of shake things up a little bit. But in a smart way.

MARTIN: Ian, may I ask you who you supported in the 2008 election?

ETHERIDGE: I voted for Barack Obama. We all got really excited in 2008. And now we're less so. And I don't think I'm unique in that at all.

MARTIN: Daniel, I would like to work you into the conversation a little bit here. How enthusiastic are you about your choices this go-round?

HUBLEIN: I would say, much like Ian, I was a Barack Obama supporter the last election. I've become a little disenfranchised with him, not so much because of the continuing issues with recession and the economy; more so at the sort of loss of civil liberty that's happened under his administration that I feel like has been a little bit behind the scenes, not talked about as much. You know, the indefinite detention of American citizens is a little disconcerting.

MARTIN: It's my understanding that you self-identify as someone who's fiscally conservative. What does that mean to you and how does that play into your choices this election?

HUBLEIN: I guess fiscally conservative just in terms of the size of government and I tend to lean more towards making decisions in terms of states' rights because I feel like that's how people can actually get involved. The federal government seems so far reserved from what we actually have access to or any sort of control over.

MARTIN: Does it bug you at all that because of the way our political system works it really is just a handful of states that actually matter when it comes to the Electoral College?

ETHERIDGE: Ian here. I think that's absolutely true. And I think you see it reflected in people's attitudes. I mean, I bet you would see a lot more activism in a state like Texas if it was a little more closely matched.

EDWARDS: Yeah. Actually, when I'm talking to my friends, they talk about how they don't care to vote or they really just don't see any point to it because Texas is, you know, classically a red state and they think that their vote won't matter.

MARTIN: So, to be perfectly frank, I'm hearing kind of a lack of general enthusiasm in what you all are saying. And I'm just wondering what it would take to change that for you.

ETHERIDGE: Ian here. Maybe some specifics. You know, they're talking in broad strokes. And it's like they're both trying to not lose an election instead of both trying to win an election.

HUBLEIN: Yeah, I can agree with that. I know for me, like, watching the debates, I have a tendency to sort of distrust how factual information is on both sides. And then I look to a website like or PolitiFact and that's sort of what you find is that, like, everything is kind of a half-truth. And so it's hard to get excited and get behind that person.

EDWARDS: Yeah, if there's a candidate who came out with really, like, brutal honesty, then I think our nation would be more inclined to run after them. Because I think when you're honest the world runs after you.

MARTIN: Daniel Hublein, Ezra Edwards and Ian Etheridge. They are around the brunch table in Austin, Texas. They let us sit in. Hey, thanks so much, you guys.

HUBLEIN: Thank you.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Rachel.


MARTIN: Our segment was produced with help from Mose Buchell(ph) of State Impact and member station KUT. And if you want to check out photos of our Austin brunch crew, go to our Facebook page, NPR Weekend. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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