New Hampshire Voters Say College Costs, Unemployment Top Issues

'It's hard for graduates, not being able to pay their loans and find a job,' one young voter tells MTV News.

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — There were no excuses to skip Tuesday’s (January 10) primary in the Granite State. The weather was balmy for this time of year, there was no snow on the ground and the body-slamming back-and-forth between the Republican contenders was worthy of a backyard wrestling ring.

But what brought out an expected record 250,000 voters for Tuesday’s contest? MTV’s Power of 12 hit the polls early and late in the day to ask young voters what was on their minds when they stepped up to be counted.

Lifeguard and Special Olympics basketball coach (go, Manchester Mustangs!) Keating Tufts, 21, emerged from casting his vote just before dinnertime with college tuition on his mind. “We’re paying more for school every single year, the tuition keeps on going up … I feel like [I should] do my part and vote,” said the Southern New Hampshire University student who was not willing to fall in line and cast his lot with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, instead opting for unconventional congressman Ron Paul. “He’s got a different view than normal candidates, so I feel like it would be interesting to see what he can do.”

As high school English teacher Kelly Ilacqua, 25, emerged from the Carol M. Rines Health Center in Manchester’s Ward 3, she said she went with former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum because of her pro-life beliefs. “He is the author of the legislation that outlawed partial-birth abortion … and he’s also been a big proponent of two legislations that have stopped doctors in abortion clinics from ending the lives of abortion-surviving infants.”

Earlier in the day, first-time voter Amelia Dickinson, 18, had several different motivations for voting. “Right now I’d have to say the economy and foreign policy … with [North Korea’s] Kim Jong-Il passing and everyone on edge about what’s going to happen next,” she said. “Obviously with the economy with how there’s so much unemployment, people are worried about inflation with the dollar. I think the next president really needs to have an understanding and know what to do with those two problems and really be willing to compromise with the two parties.”

For another first-time voter, 18-year-old high school student Emily Flanders, it was not the economy but social issues including gay rights and abortion, while Andrew Judd, 19, said he was thinking a lot about foreign policy as well as who the eventual candidates are beholden to in getting to the big game. “Intellect in general, how smart the candidates are,” he said. “You want a smart president. Also, how people were financially backed. I don’t want somebody going to Washington with a lot of promises they have to fill.”

Danielle Courtemanche, 23, was focused squarely on the same things so many millions of Americans are: unemployment. After meeting former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman several times at her job at the local Hilton Garden Inn hotel, Courtemanche said she felt that he understood her struggles and those of her peers and had the best plan to help them out. “As a graduate of 2011, I feel that it is very important for people my age to go out and vote. I feel like it’s a big problem,” she said of the difficulty new graduates are having finding jobs. “It’s hard for graduates with loans … not being able to pay their loans and to find a job.”

Like many of the other voters MTV News has talked to in Iowa and New Hampshire, high school senior David Chester, 19, said the #1 issue is the economy. “[Definitely] the economy, which affects everyone,” he said. “I think one of the huge things that we need to acknowledge is that the financial crisis was due in large part to the financial sector, not the public sector, and a little regulation in Wall Street would not hurt to have a little responsibility there.”

What issues are important to you as you get ready to hit the polls for your primary? Let us know in comments below.

MTV is on the scene in New Hampshire! Check back here around the clock for up-to-the-minute coverage on the primary caucuses, and stick with PowerOf12.org throughout the presidential election season.

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