Youth Summit Survey: Youth prefer more Self-Determination
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The main reason for last week’s “Youth Empowerment Summit on Self- Determination & Hope” was to help youth learn about current and critical issues on American Samoa’s political status and constitution. Another was to get a good indication of their views on these issues. Survey results from the Summit strongly suggest a preference for increased self-determination.
The survey was designed to compare results on related statements and look at percentages that stand out. There were 4 topic areas.
The first topic was on the federal court case to apply US citizenship automatically to people born in American Samoa.
On the statement “All people born in American Samoa should be US citizens by birth”, 52% voted YES.
On first look, it appears the majority of youth want US citizenship by birth. However, when compared with the related statement “All people born in American Samoa should be US Nationals by birth,” 79% voted YES. This is a 27% difference in favor of keeping the status quo.
The percentage that stood out was on the statement “Seeking US citizenship by birth should be a decision of the people of American Samoa.” 74% voted YES.
The second topic concerned the “Large Vessel Protected Area” controversy.
The LVPA sets boundaries that restrict purse seiners (vaa tetele) from entering fishing areas protected for alia (vaa laiti). The American Samoa Government argued the National Marines Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated the Deeds of Cession when it reduced the LVPA from 50 to 12 miles.
When asked “ASG should follow or comply with the NMFS decision”, 55% voted YES. On first look, it appears the majority of youth agree the LVPA should be reduced to 12 miles. A look at the related statements suggest otherwise. In comparison, when asked “The National Marines Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated the Deeds of Cession when it reduced the LVPA from 50 to 12 miles”, 64% answered YES.
The percentage that stood out was on the statement “The Large Vessel Protect Area (LVPA) should be under the authority and control of the American Samoa Government.” 83% voted YES.
The third topic was about the Veto Override.
The two similar statements regarding the Veto Override produced equal results. On the statement “The Fono should have the authority to override the Governor’s veto by 2/3 vote of each house without any additional steps”, 75% voted YES. On the similar statement “Keep the same veto override process”, 74% voted YES. These two votes cancelled each other out.
The percentage that stood out was on the statement “The Secretary of Interior should be removed from the American Samoa veto override process.” 58% voted YES.
The fourth topic on the American Samoa Senate had interesting results. On the statement “Senators should be elected by popular vote”, 60% voted YES. By comparison, on the similar statement “Keep the Senate manner of election the same”, 68% voted YES for only an 8% difference. This data goes against the conventional wisdom that the youth want to change the Senate election process.
On the statement “Electing Senators will mean the end of the fa’aSamoa.” 57% voted NO.
Finally, the last statement was to make sure the Summit participants understood the overall process in amending American Samoa’s constitution. On the statement “I understand the American Samoa Constitution cannot be amended unless approved by the US Congress”, 80% voted YES.
On the first three topics, the percentages that stood out indicate the Summit participants hold the view that there should be more local autonomy over American Samoa’s ocean resources, that US citizenship by birth should be a decision of the people of American Samoa, and that the Secretary of Interior ought to be removed from the veto override process.
The survey results imply that while American Samoa is not seeking the ultimate self-determination of political independence, self-determination remains relevant in other areas and contexts.
The summit participants were registered in the WIOA Summer program. According to Makerita Enesi, Human Resources Deputy Director, Employment & Training Division, the participants are ages 17 - 24. 85% of them are US Nationals and 10% are US citizens. 5% are non-residents who are authorized to work. All of them are High School graduates.
Election Office staff Laloifi Saelua, Grants Coordinator, and Ma’elega Faumuina, Public Relations Officer facilitated the voting to give the participants the experience of voting – checking names against a voter list, using private voting booths, and casting their responses in voting boxes. Election Office staff tallied the votes in a secured room. The analysis and interpretation of the Summit results was done by Dan Aga, Summit Chair and Director of the Political Status and Constitutional Review Office.