Four students, representing each party, have offered their opinions on why they made their choices.
Jennifer Ballinger, a social work major, made her decision to vote for Hillary Clinton after her first choice, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, lost the bid for the Democratic nominee. Though not fully pleased with her choice, she views Clinton as a more favorable presidential pick than Trump.
“It seems like almost every election you’re like, ‘ok this person’s about the least bad,'” Ballinger says.
Ballinger chose not to go third party, stating that she believes a vote for third party is a losing vote. Though she’s not a strong Clinton supporter, she says she “agrees with her enough” to offer her support.
Ballinger compares Clinton to Al Gore in his 2000 presidential bid against George W. Bush, calling them both “whip smart,” but “wooden and stilted” in their delivery, which may put them off to voters. She also calls Clinton a “terrible campaigner,” referencing the email scandals that have plagued her campaign and left many voters feeling she is untrustworthy as a candidate.
Ballinger says it would have helped the Clinton campaign to be open and transparent about the email dump rather than wait for the media to release it and for the Republican Party to use as leverage against her.
“I don’t think there’s really ultimately anything to it. I just think it’s sheer stupidity and maybe a protect-your-butt lawyer kind of attitude — but if she had let go of that stuff earlier on maybe she would be in a better place now.”
Ballinger finds that Clinton’s political experience makes her more desirable as president. Her experience as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State and First Lady gives her knowledge of the political process and foreign policy. She also regards Clinton’s work in the United Nations to bolster women’s rights.
“I think that when women are doing well then the whole family’s doing well,” Ballinger says. “If you support the women, you support the children, you support the next generation.”
Ballinger also believes that Clinton is a better choice from an environmental standpoint. In the face of Republican opposition to environmental regulations on industry, she views Clinton as more beneficial to preserving natural resources.
“It’s like all these regulations! They’re such a pain!'” she says, referencing what she believes is the common Republican attitude to environmental policy. “Well regulations are a pain, but usually, they’re there for a good reason. I like clean water. I like clean air. I like having national parks. I don’t think we should dismantle them.”
On the Republican side of the argument, Cody Felger, a youth ministry major, believes also that “there is no good option for a good candidate.” Felger, however intends to vote for Donald Trump, believing that he resonates best with his personal values.
“I’m voting for the one who holds closest to my values, even though he might not be the greatest person,” Felger says.
Citing Clinton’s email scandals, Felger finds her dishonesty a deal-breaker for him. Also, being raised in a conservative household, he adheres strongly to pro-life principles, which causes him to be put off by Clinton’s left-leaning stance on abortion. Though he agrees with Trump on some of his policies, he finds his delivery immature.
“I find his attitude — I just think he acts like a middle schooler honestly — like some of the ways he answers questions — he’s so, like, rude to people. It’s tough. I could see how people could go either way,” he says.
Felger says he understands the struggle of fellow students to try to line up their Christian values with what their candidate stands for. He argues that neither candidate is a good “Christian” choice, but instead offers to do “damage control,” believing the debate over who is more Christian could lead to fractured relationships on campus.
“I’ve heard a lot of people go either way,” he says. “They’re either anti-Hillary or anti-Trump. I’d say, in this election, really vote what you think lines up the most with your values.”
Felger quotes Ted Cruz during the Republican National Convention, when he refused to endorse Trump saying, “vote your conscience.” He believes it’s important to not give in to how the majority is voting. Felger, however, also says that he is not interested in voting third party. Both he and Ballinger find third party options more favorable, but aren’t choosing to vote for them because they view voting third party is “giving the election away.”
Sam Jones, an outspoken supporter of Libertarian runner Gary Johnson, argues that third parties can actually have a chance at the Presidency.
“I feel like it’s an ignorant point of view — giving the election away.” Jones says. “Everybody has this — especially people who are strongly Democrat or strongly Republican — they have this opinion that, if you vote third party, you’re throwing the election to the other candidate. It’s just kind of ignorant because both parties say that about each other.”
Jones says he bases his decision for Johnson on what other demographics are saying about him. When it comes to Johnson’s stance on immigration, Jones says he listens to the arguments of immigrants and ethnic minorities. When studying Johnson’s stance of military intervention, Jones listens to the arguments of service members.
“In the case of a lot of these situations, most people in these groups that you say he’s targeting, highly support him,” Jones says. “Even though I’m not well versed in the area of illegal immigration or things like that, I’m basing a lot of what I’m saying on the people involved.”
Jones references polls saying that Johnson is most favorable among military members, compared to both Clinton and Trump, a fact that he argues is “something to look at.” Jones regards himself as a “non-interventionist,” which lines him up with Johnson’s policies on military usage.
A self-styled political independent, Jones doesn’t classify himself as a Libertarian, even though he’s voting for a Libertarian candidate. He believes that some Libertarian policies are too extreme for his point of view. As someone who is disenchanted with the bipartisan system, Jones says his goal is simply to educate himself politically to help himself make the right decision. He also says that he’s not afraid to “write in” a candidate, arguing that voters’ options are “unlimited,” even though, statistically, the option may not be realistic.
“I’d rather my conscience be clear than have the wrong candidate in office,” he says.
As a third party candidate, Johnson has made media headlines by having the biggest following of any third party runner in recent U.S. history, reaching 13 percent approval according to recent polls.
“It is possible. There’s different scenarios some people like to work out,” Jones says. “Could we throw the Presidency into the House of Representatives? Then they would elect him. It’s a Republican majority right now, and a lot of Republicans are not for Donald Trump.”
Another third party candidate who hasn’t been making quite as much noise, Green Party runner Jill Stein, has a few hopeful followers on campus. Sarah Gruenewald, an English and Public Relations major, is choosing Stein based on her own personal beliefs about green energy, universal education and universal health care.
“I think it’s important, especially in this election, since nobody wants to vote for anyone, that third parties, like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, really at least have a chance to get in the public perception for the next election,” Gruenewald says.
Unlike Jones, Gruenewald is not optimistic about third party candidates actually winning. Her main concern is that they make enough of a presence in this election to be considered in the future.
“I know she won’t win,” Gruenewald says. “It’s more of the statement like, this is the party that has my values, and I want it to be heard. I don’t want to go with the old, corrupt, either party really that’s just been around for so long and had monopolies on so much.”
Though students who are voting and participating in the political discussion for the first time may view this upcoming election as particularly heated, Dwight Brautigam, Ph.D., argues that heavy contention is not a new dimension of presidential elections. What is new is the characteristics of this election. Donald Trump, who at the beginning of the election was viewed as a political upstart with no real chance at winning, achieved the Republican ticket, and is now contesting the Presidency against Hillary Clinton, who Brautigam calls “the ultimate insider” on the Democratic side.
“You have this one party coming at it from, ‘we have an anointed candidate [Clinton] that we’re going to back no matter what,’ and the other party coming from, ‘it’s a wide open contest, and none of the early favorites survived,’ with the entrance of Trump,” Brautigam says.
Brautigam also says that there has been no parallel in recent history to the 2016 election. He argues that some parallels can be connected between Trump and Andrew Jackson, Jackson also being a political outsider.
“Some of this is because of the changing nature of communication itself,” Brautigam says. “The reality that you could use your celebrity-driven fame to shift gears into a different celebrity contest in a sense.”
Brautigam says that Presidential candidates do function like celebrities, with everything they do falling under the scrutiny of the public eye. Part of Trump’s success, Brautigam claims, is his ability to “suck all the oxygen out of the room,” or to keep the media focused on him.
“It seems to me that he’s a believer in the ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ mentality,” he says.
Whether that strategy will ultimately hurt Trump or propel him to the Oval Office is a matter of confusion. Brautigam explains that political scientists rely on patterns of previous elections to predict future outcomes. The problem with Trump is that he’s incomparable to any politician in recent history. Coming at the election from the stance of a political outsider and appealing to public disenchantment with the political system with a very unconventional style makes him an anomaly who is hard for researchers to predict.
Brautigam argues that, according to all predictions, Trump should not have even won the Republican nomination. The revelation has proven a shock to political analysts who, up until 2016, relied on polls based around what Brautigam calls “normal” candidates.
“Even if there’s a big range within ‘normal,’ [Trump’s] not even in the range,” he says.
In a convenience survey of 103 Huntington University students, Trump showed to have the largest approval rating, with 25 percent of students saying they would vote for him. Notably, when students were asked who they would vote for, the majority paused and made pained expressions accompanying their decision. 33 percent of students declared that they were undecided, and 12 percent announced that they were not going to vote at all. Brautigam gives a harsh argument as to why the students who are not voting may in fact have the right idea.
“Honestly they’re probably right,” he says. “Most of the studies show that the voters who didn’t turn out, had they turned out, would have voted in the same percentage as the people who did turn out.”
Brautigam also argues that, because of the electoral system, if a state like Indiana votes Republican, then all the ballots held by the state go to Trump, and the people in Indiana who voted Democrat are not really heard. But he does argue that people should vote for other offices, saying that the closer people are to their own local government, the more likely their voices will be heard.
To someone campaigning for any political office, voting does matter. Andy Zay, who is the secretary for the Republican Party in Huntington, says that both Democrats and Republicans work very hard to identify and secure their respective voting basis.But he adds that college students are a difficult voting populace for a party to identify because some may come from out of state and are not registered to vote at their current address.
“More college educated voters are eligible to vote,” Zay says. “This does not mean that they are more likely or registered to vote. There are peaks and valleys depending on the candidates and the relationships that candidates build with the populace.”
According to several media polls, Trump’s approval rating has been high among under-educated (no college degree) white males. But Zay says that both Republicans and Democrats have historically held policies that appeal to higher educated voters. Republicans tend to appeal to voters who place a high value on national security, taxes and pro-life issues, while Democrats try to persuade voters who believe that educational and economic opportunity and social safety nets are more important. Zay would argue that both of these types of voters can be found in the “higher education” bracket.
“Of course, the biggest influence in many younger voters is their family up-bringing,” Zay says. “As the family is more fractured and challenged the political view points can be persuaded one direction or another.”
Recent polls suggest that the United States is headed towards having its second President Clinton take office in January. But of course, these polls are contingent on the notion that those polled will actually show up on election day. Zay says that “participation is always the great equalizer,” and that the challenge of candidates is to get core supporters to the polls. The party that works the hardest to draw out their supporters usually wins the race.