The Flaws in Jacob Soboroff’s UCI Student Voter “Survey”

MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff visited our campus on Oct. 9 to survey UCI students’ feelings about voting… is what I would have said had he actually stepped foot on campus.

Instead, Soboroff went to the UTC shuttle stop and asked a random group of students if they were going to vote. Unsurprisingly, most students weren’t very receptive to a stranger with a camera, especially not as they’re waiting to get home. I’ve been riding these shuttles for the past four years and finding a seat is so competitive that I always plan my approach down to the very location at which I stand at the stop.

Check the Rider app, figure out bus routes, stand at optimal position, win. That formula leaves no room for an interview. You can see what I mean at around the two-minute mark in MSNBC’s video. As Soboroff is speaking to the gentleman in pink a large rush of students makes their way behind them, all of them competing for a seat because the 20-minute bus ride home is much better spent sitting.

I have many issues with Soboroff’s video, but my main issue is that I don’t think he even tried. Had he just walked across the bridge onto campus he would have seen the first of many booths registering students to vote. I talked to Jeanie Le with the College Democrats at their booth on Ring Road who said they felt the video was not at all representative of the student population. They see a large influx of students every day they’re out, with most of them saying they’re already registered or looking to update their address. They released their own statement on the video, listing all their efforts to engage and inform student voters (weekly meetings open to the public, providing voter information, finding jobs in with the Democratic Party of Orange County, etc.)

I also had the pleasure of visiting the Korean Resource Center booth where UCI Alumni Susan Park told me that the student speaking at 2:49 in the video had just registered with her.

“It was so crazy I posted it on my Instagram,” Park said. She speculated that maybe the video has mobilized students to want to register to vote.

But what if we assume for a bit that Soboroff is right? That college students really just don’t care about voting enough. What other things could they possibly have going on?

I asked my friend Stephany to show me what her weekly schedule looks like. She’s taking 20 units this quarter (5 classes), 35 hours of work a week, 10 hours a week volunteering with the mental health committee, and she’s also a discussion leader for University Studies 1 freshmen. That’s a pretty packed schedule by any measure, and to find time in that schedule to become an informed voter? That’s a ridiculous expectation.

“I’m registered to vote and all, but to actually find the time to do research would be a miracle,” Stephany said.

I also have a busy life. In speaking to my freshmen discussion sections, they tell me about how packed their schedules are. Work, class, clubs, social life, etc. It’s a lot to juggle all at once, and just because students can’t always make time for politics doesn’t mean they don’t want to. It’s easy to forget that for a lot of students time is a luxury, and becoming a really well informed voter can feel like somewhat of a privilege. And to then be expected to speak about it publicly to a stranger? Good luck, sir.

Miguel Lopez is a fourth year English and Literary Journalism Major. He can be reached at lopezma3@uci.edu.

Edit: A previous version of this article misidentified Susan Park as Christine Park. The error has since been amended.