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Recent Political, Religious And Racial Violence Has Some Voters Eager For Change


There are just six days remaining until the midterm elections, with early voting already well underway in many places. Voters are making their decisions following a week of disturbing news, with violence and threats connected to politically charged rhetoric.


First, we learned that more than a dozen pipe bombs were sent to high-profile Democrats and critics of President Trump. Then there was the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. The man accused of the crime had expressed anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views online. We wanted to get a sense of how Americans are feeling after all of this and whether they might use the ballot box to send a message.

CHANG: So we asked people across the country if the events of the past week have made them more or less likely to vote and if they've shifted their opinions. Kathleen Eble voted early in Indianapolis, and she says she sees this election as a referendum on the president, even if he isn't on the ballot.

KATHLEEN EBLE: I'm right now in between because I was always Republican, and I can't in my right conscience put him back in with what's going on.

CHANG: Carl Teague, also in Indianapolis, is a strong supporter of the president.

CARL TEAGUE: I hope someday we'll get back to tolerance because I think that's the secret to - the success of our country has always been the tolerance that we've been able to show. And it's been lost on some of the - especially the media.

CHARLES GLOVER: Well, I mean, I think that we've had conflict as long as our country has existed, but there's a difference between constructive criticism and debate and dialogue and violence.

SHAPIRO: That's Charles Glover of Dallas. He says he's coming out to vote no matter what.

GLOVER: I mean, I really believe it's a civic duty. I hope that everyone does it that has the opportunity to do so. And I think we need to increase those opportunities for all of our citizens.

SHAPIRO: In Philadelphia, 19-year-old Leana Young says she feels an urgency about this election.

LEANA YOUNG: I have talked to my friends about voting. Unfortunately, I am one of the only friends that are voting. But I want a community where it's safer for everybody.

CHANG: Also in Philadelphia, Kathy Barbizzi says she believes in Trump as long as he fulfills the things he says he's going to do. She's also scared by the violence of the last week.

KATHY BARBIZZI: I have grandchildren and I'm thinking to myself, I wish I didn't. The world is crazy.

CHANG: Finally, Ellen Debel in Philadelphia says she thinks the week's violence says more about individuals than the state of the country.

ELLEN DEBEL: I think that we see a lot of people that have mental health issues that aren't being addressed. And I'm not sure that voting is going to solve those problems. I think we could use a little better gun control. That might help some of our issues. But I really think that getting to the root cause of the problem, bringing people back to the basics, having right and wrong and having that enforced on a routine basis, I think that could help a lot of our social issues.

SHAPIRO: That's Ellen Debel in Philadelphia, who says she still votes regularly.

CHANG: Thanks to member stations WFYI, KERA, WHYY and reporter Kyrie Greenberg for help gathering all those voices. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.