By ELIZABETH COLUCCIO
Michelle DePrizio, 19, is a film production and French double major who dreams of one day working in New York City and making films about women’s rights and social justice issues. Right now, she attends the Macaulay Honors College, a full-scholarship City University of New York honors program aimed at investing in the next generation of leaders. Yet DePrizio does not have the confidence in the city that the city has in her.
“There’s a lot of film industry in New York, especially for independent film. So far the job market is okay, but I know for a lot of other fields it’s not that great, so I worry about my brother, if I don’t get a job what I’m going to do, so that’s worrisome,” she said. “I’m worried about being able to afford living on my own and having a job that will pay for that, and affording grad school if I decide to go.”
DePrizio’s concerns are echoed by the many young adults in New York City who watch the job market and cost of living with trepidation. Young voters will be demanding solutions to these crises, and in this year’s mayoral election between Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota, they will stand behind the candidate who promises change.
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted from Oct. 16 to Oct. 20 found that among likely voters aged 18 to 35, 78 percent would vote for de Blasio, 10 percentage points above his citywide result. A previous poll taken in September found that in the same demographic, 33 percent said Lhota was too conservative, and 31 percent said they did not know enough to say. On the other hand, 69 percent said de Blasio was balanced well between being too liberal and too conservative.
As it stands now, it appears that de Blasio could win in a landslide. Polls have shown him leading by immense margins — 44 percentage points, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist College poll. As large as his lead is among all voters, de Blasio’s lead among young voters is even bigger.
“There’s not as much on [Lhota]; he’s more difficult to ascertain. I wonder what the average New Yorker would know,” said Celina Su, a political science professor at Brooklyn College. “Unless Lhota makes a specific and concerted attempt [to attract young voters], young people will be more likely to support de Blasio.”
De Blasio certainly has been promoting himself as the more liberal, progressive candidate, while maintaining that at heart he is a fiscal conservative; Lhota has disparaged the latter half of that claim. Lhota has argued that de Blasio is too inexperienced to run the city, and that his “tale of two cities” slogan is a form of class warfare.
But many New Yorkers, especially young people, have identified with de Blasio’s assertion about inequality. That is particularly so in the face of one of the most contentious issues in the campaign, stop and frisk. According to Su, de Blasio’s stance against stop and frisk has aided him greatly in his appeal to young voters.
“Issues he has highlighted like stop and frisk are ones that disproportionately affect young men of color,” she said. “It is a huge issue. Between stop and frisk and major cases like Trayvon Martin, these are issues that a lot of young people can immediately relate to.”
Another issue on the minds of young people is the economy of the city, specifically the rising cost of living and the increasing income gap. Students about to graduate college are doubtful that the lagging job market can support living in New York City. Michael Perrin, a senior at Brooklyn College majoring in political science and philosophy who plans to next year go to graduate school for public policy programs, is worried about the state of the economy if things don’t change.
“If things go as they are, there will be an excessive gap between the price of living and the price people can pay,” he said.
However, some students are hopeful that with the mayoral election, circumstances can change. Edward Maddalena, also a senior majoring in accounting at Brooklyn College, has reservations about the fiscal climate of the federal and state governments, but said he feels that de Blasio can help fix it.
“I feel his economic plan is more sustainable, and helps to address the inequality facing New York City,” he said.
The majority of registered voters would agree with him. In a poll by The Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist Poll, 67 percent of voters said they think de Blasio is better able to make the city more affordable for the average family, and 49 percent think he’s more capable of handling the city’s finances. This is in direct opposition to Lhota’s claims that de Blasio would hinder the very people he’s trying to help by putting “a glossy shine over the realities of what big-spending, out-of-control government does to the people,” as the New York Times reported.
Young voters are not being swayed by Lhota’s naysaying, like Perrin, who said he wished that candidates would “talk about everything [they] plan to do instead of one or two talking points [they] think would get people to vote” for them.
Though Lhota has been relying on his experience as deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani to give him an edge over de Blasio, young people are still not confident in his policies. Perrin found fault particularly in his plan for social benefit programs.
“I know that Joe Lhota has been talking about cutting social benefit programs like welfare programs, claiming they don’t necessarily need to exist,” said Perrin. “I don’t know that that’s true. I think it’s quite the opposite.”
Some, like Will Lorenzo, a film studies and pure math major who was generally unenthused about this election, supported de Blasio mostly because of his distaste for Lhota’s leadership of the MTA.
“Joe Lhota can’t run the MTA because that’s a piece of junk, so why should he be able to run the city?” said Lorenzo.
Though de Blasio has a firm support base among young adults, he shouldn’t rest too easily – a lot of people are counting on him to improve their future. As Maryam Razaz, a junior at Brooklyn College and staunch Democrat, said with a sigh, “Whatever he does, I just hope he doesn’t do something stupid.”
Photo: College student Michelle DePrizio and other young voters are concerned about jobs as they consider their choices for mayor.