Young voters around the country have faced unprecedented circumstances in voting during a historic election. As many students continue their lives from behind a computer screen, Suffolk University has continued to offer election week events for students across the country to discuss and engage in the 2020 presidential election. Suffolk University is home to a variety of political clubs, including the Suffolk Democrats and Suffolk Republicans. These clubs hosted a roundtable discussion and analysis of the election that was open to all students and staff before Joe Biden was named President-Elect. The conversation began with a statement from the president of each club and was then opened to the audience. Although the discussion went relatively smoothly and respectfully, there were some issues that seemed to stick out for the young voters and these issues seem to impact voters on a national scale as well which has continued to increase division in the country.
The discussion began with a focus on the economic policies and many of the students who leaned towards the right and/or supported Donald Trump felt that their decision was related to the economy in some way, closing businesses, COVID-19 response, etc. In national polls, Trump only leads assurance in economic policy in comparison to other categories such as race relations, pandemic response, and foreign policy. The middle class income has seen an increase under the Trump Administration as well as the GDP, however, the Administration suffered during the pandemic, far worse than in the 2009 economic recession under Obama. The economy affects every young voter and their family in a different way. This can encourage partisanship amongst youth voters in the nation that will continue to be exacerbated if they feel that democratic administrations are not meeting their desires for the economy, despite the fact that, historically, democratic administrations have done better for the economy.
Another point that arose during this conversation was a belief among some Trump supporters that they are seeing a decline in national pride and “Americanism” from the democratic voters. The mood began to shift in this conversation because the idea of “Americanism” means something different to everyone. In a study in 2019, 63% of Republicans felt that the Democrats were unpatriotic, while only 23% of Democrats said the same for Republicans. These beliefs are issues that are not only a threat to the increasing political divide of the country, but can push voters towards certain candidates who emphasize national pride or “Americanism” in the way that Trump has in order to reach a crowd that feels strongly about these qualities in people running the nation and those who are part of it. In terms of international superiority, 19% of younger voters (age 18-29) believed that other countries were superior to the U.S. and the percentage increases with the democrats in this age range to 47%. Depending on how one defines “Americanism” it is clear that the students agree with other young voters on a national scale on the issue.
As for Biden supporters, the students’ reasons for voting seemed to be geared towards the racial relation issues in the country as well as a dislike for Trump. Many students believed that was important to elect a candidate who was going to address and attempt to reform systems that were causing these issues. Racial relations were among the most important issues to young voters in this election with protests against police violence being a deciding issue in youth votes, however the percentages vary among races. Amongst young Black voters, 45% said that this was a deciding factor in their vote followed by Latino youth at 28%, Asian youth at 21%, and White youth with the lowest at 18%. The percentages were much higher about concern of the issue when characterized as a serious issue rather than a key factor in voting. It seems as though on a national scale, youth voters believed that voting would help to resolve this issue, however, a handful of the students in the group felt that federal government elections are not going to solve the problem as it is the responsibilities or local governments. The geographical locations of protests and police brutality incidents are spread throughout the country, leading many to believe that the federal government must step in to do what they can. The issue of race relations and police brutality are ones that seemed to be fairly partisan in this group of students which is also evident on a national level.
The conversation seemed to become increasingly more intense as the issues of Americanism and social justice came into play. It is important to note the unique factors of this election due to the pandemic and behavior from Trump that has not fit into the historical norms of the presidency. Some of the students felt more passionately about the economy and racial issues because of Trump’s rhetoric and he has acted or spoken in a way that they’ve responded well. On the other hand, the democratic students seemed to attach more to issues and progression of the nation past Trump and socially rather than Joe Biden himself. The division of the nation was immensely apparent in the conversation had by the students and also on a national scale. This division has heightened stress about the future of the country and democracy, but, regardless of division, it is clear that these voters only want what they feel is best for this country. The problem is, that means drastically different things for those on each side of the aisle.
Works Cited “Trump draws more confidence on economy than on coronavirus or race.” Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. (30 Jun. 2020). https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/06/30/publics-mood-turns-grim-trump-trails-biden-on-most-personal-traits-major-issues/pp_06-30-20_public-mood-trump-00-3/.  Long, Heather. “The Trump vs. Obama Economy – in 16 charts.” The Washington Post, 5 Sep. 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/05/trump-obama-economy/.  United States, Joint Economic Committee. The Economy Under Democratic vs. Republican Presidents. June 2016. https://www.jec.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/309cc8e1-b971-45c6-ab52-29ffb1da9bf5/jec-fact-sheet—the-economy-under-democratic-vs.-republican-presidents-june-2016.pdf.  “Partisan Antipathy: More Intense, More Personal.” Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. (10 Oct. 2019). https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2019/10/10/partisan-antipathy-more-intense-more-personal/.  “Young Voters Concerned about Racism and Police Violence.” Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, Tufts Tisch College, 11 Nov. 2020, https://circle.tufts.edu/latest-research/election-week-2020#young-voters-concerned-about-racism-and-police-violence.
Great work, Isabel! It is awesome that during these unpredictable circumstances you can still find ways to be meaningfully involved. I like the point you brought up about the economy and how the pandemic has caused it to suffer worse than ever before, despite republican objection. I agree that everyone seems to have a different view of “Americanism”. In your view, how is this concept defined? Is noticing our country’s flaws un-American or patriotic?
Great work turning your conversation to the current issue around racism. I think it is a very important conversation to be having right now. The fact that these two groups could have this type of conversation is impressive. Where there ways you thought it could have improved, though? Should more universities try to host events like this?
This was a great post. I really enjoyed reading about the statistics and thoughts of those not only in my age range but who attend the same school as me, too. I completely agree with what you said about how “Americanism” has a different definition for everyone. From personal experience, I have seen people display their Americanism by wearing the American flag on clothing items or hanging the flag outside their house. On the other hand, I have also seen others advocating for what they believe in and what they think will benefit our country on their social media, which can also be seen as a form of Americanism. I feel as though that Americans feeling comfortable to criticize their country openly is a part of Americanism, as they are looking to push and create new ideas they see will create the best environment to live in for themselves and others. Do you feel the same way? And do you think those expressing their negative views on the country and government adds to the idea of anti-Americanism, even if they mean well?
Great post Isabel! I think that your statement about both sides wanting what is best for the country, but these things being drastically different is perfectly portrayed by both Biden and Trump supporters basing their decision off of Covid-19 response. Each side is looking for almost opposite responses, Trump supporters generally want there to be very few restrictions, while Biden supporters generally want several restriction to be put in place. The stats about the different parties thinking the other was unpatriotic is very intriguing to me because I imagine my view of what Americanism is is very different than what Republicans think of it as. To me, Americanism means accepting everyone and treating everyone equally because if we think we are the best country we should want everyone to enjoy being here and support each other. Looking at the percentages of each race that were motivated to vote due to racial relations, I thought some percentages would be higher. This makes me wonder how the numbers were collected and where a large number of the stats were received.
Great topic, Isabel!
Earlier this semester we were talking about how targeting and social media filter our sources of information and how each of us is mostly surrounded by people with similar interests and political points of view. I’m glad that our university organizes such a discussions and lets both, Republican and Democratic supporters to hear each other. I believe that attending events like this is a great way to form better mutual goals and could bring people together. Even though at the moment everything seems to be difficult and people are divided according to their political points of view, there’s a chance to find a great compromise through the civilized argument which will serve well to both sides.
Hi Isabel, this is an amazing post. I really enjoyed reading about how even though the times right now are difficult and limited you are still able to go be involved. I like how throughout your post you not only stated specifics but also involved statistics in your work. I also enjoyed when you brought up the economy and how it has changed due to the pandemic. I agree with you when you said “Americanism” has a different meaning to everyone. As humans we all have different views and I truly enjoyed how you stated that on the topic of Americanism. I see people display what they believe is Americanism in many different ways such as wearing hats or other clothing with the American flag, but also having the flag in front of their house and sometimes even in the back of their vehicles. Looking up the difference of how many citizens voted for each candidate and some of the large reasons for that, makes me wonder how divided the country truly is. Overall, I believe your post was eye opening and very well done!