After a year of intensive campaigning and sensational headlines that have drawn attention around the world, United States voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8 to choose either former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or real estate tycoon Donald Trump as their 45th President.
This has been an election campaign like no other. Trump, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women, has run a campaign of personal attacks against Clinton, calling her “crooked,” “a liar,” “the devil” and worse. Clinton has responded with attacks on Trump’s character, but she has been unable to establish trust with many voters, mainly because of an enduring scandal about how she handled classified e-mails. In all the noise, substantive issues have gotten little attention.
It’s enough to make even the most non-political American cringe. Many voters say they will be choosing between “the lesser of two evils.” Curious to know how people outside the U.S. view the election, we polled a number of Anglo-American students and staff members. Here’s what they had to say.
Who you would vote for and why?
This question drew mixed responses, though with much more support for Clinton than Trump. “I’d vote for Hillary Clinton, not because I like her, but because she knows more about politics than Donald Trump,” says Chau Nguyen, a student from Vietnam. “The Democratic Party still has other good people, so she wouldn’t be the only one making all the decisions.”
Other students had similar sentiments, choosing Clinton because of her more experienced political background. Anna Kindyakova, a student from Russia says, “I think Donald Trump would ruin America if he were to become President,” an opinion that isn’t far off from many democrats in the U.S.
Then there’s Hrishabh Sandilya, an AAU Politics professor from India, who chooses neither. “I’d vote for Bernie Sanders. I’d write him in because he seems to be the only person with integrity left in politics.”
What do you not like about the opposing candidate?
For most people, this translated into: What do you not like about Donald Trump?
“The fact that someone who is running for President is talking about sexual assault, dating his own daughter and blatantly denying that he’s said those things is mind-boggling,” says Kindyakova. Raevenn Breen, a student from the Fiji Islands agrees. “Trump has advocated the possible dehumanizing of those who practice Islam. He also believes climate change to be a hoax, which is terrifying to say the least.”
However one student, Stanislav Press from Belarus, says his support would go to Trump. “They both deserve most of their hatred, but while Trump is a horrible person, at least he is honest about his mistakes,” said Press. “He would never learn from them or change in any way, but at least I can sympathize with him.”
What impact do you think the candidates will have on the U.S. and the world?
Clinton supporters had similar answers, condemning Trump’s policies and approving Clinton’s. Breen says, “Clinton will continue to work on the policies President Obama has implemented during his time in office. Trump is not someone fit for politics. He makes irrational decisions without thinking things through and I believe it would affect the U.S. in a very negative way.” Kindyakova agrees. “I think if Trump goes through with what he’s said there will be chaos. I sincerely hope for America that that won’t happen.”
Nguyen had less admiration for Clinton’s policies, saying she would have “much impact on abortion policies and foreign affairs. If Trump wins, however, I strongly believe it would trigger the emergence of more ‘Trumps’ across the globe – big-mouthed businessmen who claim they could save their countries.”
Kieran Mulhall from Ireland had other ideas, “I think Hillary would be the candidate with the ability to do the most damage. Trump I think would back out of the claims he’s made.”
What impact would the candidates have on relations between your home country and the U.S?
The variation in nationalities gave rise to very different answers. “The Fiji Islands and the U.S. share neutral relations with each other,” says Breen. “The current Fijian government supports the Democratic Party so I can only see a strengthening of ties to the U.S. should Clinton be elected.” Nguyen, from Vietnam says, “The first female President would bring hope for Vietnamese women to dream of something outside of their kitchens and living rooms. Feminism on the rise! On the other hand, if Trump wins Vietnam is going to take advantage of his image as a bad representative of capitalist countries, democracy and Western values and use it to promote the communist way.”
Kindyakova has a bleaker outlook on relations between Russia and the U.S. “From the things Hillary has said, the relationship will deteriorate. I hope she’ll change her stance if she becomes President and be more open to working with Russia. However, if Trump is elected I think relations might improve, since Trump has said more than once that he would like to become partners with Russia.” Mulhall, from Ireland says, “Trump’s hotel might get better but I think that’s about it. That part of Ireland loves him. I think Hillary will do better for Ireland if she’s elected. She has a history of relations with Ireland because of her husband.”
Professor Sandilya says, “If Trump enacts the economic legislation he’s talked about, like keeping jobs within American borders, that could really hurt the Indian economy. I think Hillary will keep up the status quo in regards to relations with India. Right now the U.S. and India are on an upswing, so I think Hillary would try and keep it that way.”
Has your opinion of the U.S. changed because of the current Presidential election?
This question split the survey sample down the middle.
Press says his opinion hasn’t changed. “All of those problems were visible. The politics in the U.S. are hilarious, there’s a lot of drama.” No argument there, this election year has been regularly ranked one of the worst in U.S. history.
Kindyakova agrees. “I just think it’s funny to watch how these elections have been unfolding. I’ve never paid attention to elections, but because these elections have been so heavily covered by international media I had no choice but to pay attention. America is good with entertainment and these elections didn’t fail to entertain.”
Professor Sandilya says his opinion hasn’t changed either. “I think America is a great country. In the long run, I think they will be able to recover from this and continue to be great.”
On the flip side, Nguyen says her opinion of the U.S. has definitely changed. “The fact that Trump gained so much support is ridiculous and scary too. Whoever wins, the U.S. is already so fragmented and messed up, I’m not sure what will happen.” Breen agrees. “Before the nominations I was a huge supporter of Bernie Sanders. It shocks me to see that the two current candidates are where they are today, given the far better choices during the primaries.” Mulhall agrees as well, and is blunt about it: “My opinion is massively negative. I’m embarrassed for America.”
Cover photo courtesy of Flickr user Rich Girard