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Monday, September 22, 2014

What Issues Matter To Young Americans?

Here & Now's Rachel Rohr is on the road in a VW camper van, talking to young people about issues that matter to them ahead of the midterm elections. Here, the van is making its way from Cleveland to West Virginia. (Rachel Rohr/Here & Now)Louisville, KY, seen from the opposite bank of the Ohio River (Rachel Rohr/Here & Now)Contradancing in Louisville is a popular past time for people of all ages, including young people. (Rachel Rohr/Here & Now)Jordan Bridges, a 26 year old, third generation coal miner and his family. He is the most politically active person Rachel has met so far in her travels. (Rachel Rohr/Here & Now)

This week begins Congress’ recess as members travel back to their districts in preparation for midterm elections.

Here & Now’s digital and social media producer, Rachel Rohr, is traveling cross-country in a VW camper van, talking with young people about the issues that are important to them ahead of midterm elections.

Her project is called “Alternate Routes.”

Rohr tells Jeremy Hobson that while most of the people she’s met don’t care about politics, most do have issues they care about.

Ways to Follow Along

  • Listen to Rachel’s entire interview with Jordan Bridges here.
  • Follow Rachel’s travels on Here & Now’s Tumblr
  • Listen to podcasts and dispatches from “Alternate Routes” on SoundCloud
  • Follow along on Instagram

“If anything affects a young person directly, you can be sure they’re paying attention – many people mentioned student loans,” Rohr said. “A 25-year-old I talked with in Buffalo had just married a Canadian citizen, so he was following immigration closely. A 27-year-old medical student in Cleveland was following health insurance very closely – she’s concerned about access to care and wants a single-payer system, even though it would mean less money for her.”

But the most politically-minded person Rohr says she has spoken with so far was Jordan Bridges, a 26-year-old coal miner in Logan, West Virginia.

“He opposes environmental regulations that are hurting the coal industry,” Rohr said. “He says he’s seen many layoffs as a result, and in fact his own company is planning layoffs at the end of this month – that he and his young family are bracing for.”

On the lighter side, Rohr has also seen a variety of regional culture.

“The other night, in Louisville I went to the Episcopal Church of the Advent, because I got a tip about Louisville’s contra dance scene – contra dance is traditional partnered folk dancing,” Rohr said. “There were people of all ages there and in particular, people in their early 20s.”


  • Rachel Rohr, social media and web producer for Here & Now, and host of the podcast “Alternate Routes.” She tweets @LionTalk.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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