Nov 23, 2020- By Eleanor Down
Many were overjoyed when Joe Biden clinched a victory over Donald Trump, but the Democratic candidate has often proved to be a polarising figure himself. Eleanor Down interviews students to get their opinions on the next president of the United States.
On November 7th 2020, Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States. This secured a historic win for the Democrat party, making Biden, aged 77, the oldest president in American history and Kamala Harris the first black American woman to hold the post of VP.
Despite Covid-19, 2020’s election saw the highest voter turnout in over a century, with an estimated 157 million voters casting ballots for president in part due to an increase in mail-in voting. Most notably there was a significant rise in voters under 30, the majority of whom voted for Biden. What caused this rise? Why did Biden appeal to the younger demographic? How do people feel about the election? These are questions that many journalists and commentators have been asking in the past few weeks, but I decided to go straight to the source and ask students here at Exeter their thoughts.
Quickly I noticed that many people had a divided opinion of Biden. The overwhelming reaction to the election was ‘joy’- one person even said they felt ‘relieved’- but it was clear that although you felt positively about Biden’s victory, students did not necessarily like him. One student emphasised that ‘nobody is under the false pretence that Biden is perfect, because he’s not’ and another commented ‘he needs to be held accountable for the things he’s done’, such as his advocation of a war in Iraq which led to the killing of thousands. Many also suggested his views were ‘not always very liberal’ and that his ‘age could present an issue’. These comments highlighted that Biden was not entirely liked as a candidate, but nevertheless students were preferred him to Trump, as he was ‘the lesser of two evils’. Why was this?
A main reason given was that Biden appears more ‘tolerant’, ‘understanding’ and ‘considerate’ as opposed to Trump. Since his election in 2016, Trump has been at the centre of controversy, advocating for extreme policies regarding matters such as gun control and abortion. Biden however, delivers a ‘less radical approach’ which appealed to many of you. Some of you were strongly in disagreement with his personal beliefs regarding matters such as abortion, which he opposes, though you highlighted that his willingness to support women’s rights in spite of this demonstrates an empathetic approach to politics.
You felt positively about the results and optimistic for a future without Trump in power
Students were also pleased with Biden’s win because of his stand on Black Lives Matter. The death of George Floyd earlier this year sparked a re-evaluation of the racism still inherent within society and whilst Biden demonstrated his support to the cause, bringing Floyd’s brother to speak at a convention, Trump has metaphorically and literally attacked protestors and referred to a BLM sign as ‘a symbol of hate’. You, the student body, felt very strongly about Trump’s racist views, with many of you saying that you were happy with the result because it was a ‘step towards diminishing societal prejudice’. Did Americans also become disillusioned with Trump? Is this the reason more young people voted? Are Gen Z more politically conscious?
When asked these questions, some of you suggested the rise in voters was in reaction to Trump’s disastrous handling of Corona Virus. You suggested people were ‘angry’ and ‘upset’ about the manner in which not only the pandemic but also other political matters had been managed by Trump during his term as president. One student compared Biden to Jeremy Corbyn saying he ‘targeted his campaign at younger voters’ encouraging a larger turnout, whilst many suggested it was ‘the presence of social media’- apps such as TikTok and Instagram have made political information more accessible to the younger demographic, and you felt the increase in young voters reflected this.
Why did Biden particularly appeal to these young voters? Many felt it was Trump’s blatant opposition to many issues young people are fighting to change such as BLM. It is apparent that amongst young people, there is an increasing awareness and resolve to change the world. Students agreed that the rise was because ‘Gen Z want to get rid of people like Trump’, who oppose change. One student summed this up perfectly saying that Gen Z are ‘determined, opinionated and don’t take sh*t’. I concluded that though the election was not black and white, you felt positively about the results and optimistic for a future without Trump in power. Hopefully, this can be a starting point to make America and the world a better place.