More than 90% of Hillsdale College students want President Donald Trump to win reelection this week, but only 66% predicted that he would secure the victory, according to a Hillsdale Collegian poll.
While less than 8.4% of respondents said they would prefer to see Joe Biden win the election, more than a third predicted he will win.
With 296 students responding, the poll captured the opinions of about 20.5% of the current student body, including undergraduate and graduate students. The poll was included in the Hillsdale College Student Activities Office bi-weekly newsletter, and students could respond from Oct. 5 to Oct. 26.
Takeaways from 2020 Poll
Four years ago, only 43.41% of 493 Hillsdale students polled by the Collegian said they would cast their ballot for Trump. Only 6% of respondents said they would vote for Hillary Clinton.
Of the student body in 2016, 20.28% of respondents said they would vote for Gary Johnson, while 11.16% favored Evan McMullin. Another 7.91% said they would vote for another candidate.
The 2020 poll asked students if they were registered to vote, and 94.6% respondents said “yes.”
Students also responded to the question: “What method will you use to vote?” According to the poll, 74% of respondents voted by absentee/mail-in ballots, 18.2% of students voted in-person, and 7.8% of students did not vote.
In 2016, 5.48% of respondents did not vote at all, and another 5.68% of respondents did not vote for president, but did vote in other races.
Hillsdale College students, who generally vote absentee, have had varying degrees of success voting this year.
Senior Katherine Wilkins, president of the Hillsdale College Democrats, said she voted in Ohio’s 2020 election using an absentee ballot.
“During the primaries, I picked up absentee ballots for my entire family,” Wilkins said. “I think it’s very important to vote, especially our generation. We’re so awful at it.”
Junior Vera Mackyntoich did not get the chance to vote in South Carolina’s election because she never received her absentee ballot.
“Frustration is definitely an understatement because I do value my right to vote, and I do want to exercise my right to vote as an American and as a young person, especially when so many young people lean left,” said Mackyntoich, who was planning to cast a ballot for Trump.
Mackyntoich said South Carolina requires residents to request an absentee ballot by mailing or faxing an application. After she sent in her application by fax in the first week of September, Mackyntoich tracked her application and could see that it was received, but its status was “pending” for several weeks.
When October came around, Mackyntoich said she called her county’s voting office and was told there was nothing she could do to expedite the process.
“Now it’s Nov. 2, and I still haven’t received my ballot,” Mackyntoich said. “My family actually contemplated flying me back on a red eye to vote and then flying me back, but with COVID-19 that didn’t happen.”
Even though she did not receive her ballot, Mackyntoich said she likes South Carolina’s process for applying to receive an absentee ballot. Mackyntoich previously lived in Georgia and said the state unknowingly sends many absentee ballots to people who are deceased.
“I like South Carolina’s process of requiring residents to give a reason for receiving an absentee ballot,” Mackyntoich said. “I had to send in my transcripts to prove that I was in school. I think it’s a good safety precaution.”
Senior Ethan Lehman said he was considering voting for the Democrtaic nominee in the spring of 2020 before the nominee had been decided.
“Once Biden got the nomination, I didn’t want to vote for him, but I hadn’t eliminated the option,” Lehman said. “Then, all the corruption stuff came out in October, and that sealed the deal.”
When he filled out his absentee ballot, Lehman said he thought seriously about not voting for either of the major party’s presidential nominees.
“It was a battle between the idealist in me who said, ‘I can’t vote for either of these men’ and the cynic in me who said, ‘I need to pick the better of two evils,’ so I chose Trump,” Lehman said.
Lehman said he reluctantly supported Trump because of the president’s character.
“Trump is morally reprehensible, and that makes it very difficult for me to vote for him, but I feel the need to support him because the alternative is worse,” Lehman said. “It’s not necessarily Biden’s character but because of what the Democratic Party is becoming.”
The poll also asked students if this was their first time voting in a presidential election. This will be the first time that 81.6% of respondents vote in a presidential election.
Senior Aidan Wheeler said he supported Trump in 2016, but this was his first time voting in a presidential election.
“It was pretty weird,” Wheeler said. “I had to do the whole absentee ballot thing for Illinois.”
Senior Virginia Aabram also said this was her first time voting in a presidential election, but she had to request her absentee ballot twice before receiving one. Aabram filed for an absentee ballot from Illinois on Sept. 23, two days before her county planned to send out ballots. She waited about a month before calling her county’s election division to request a ballot for a second time.
“I called and they canceled out my old ballot, if there ever was one,” Aabram said. “When I talked to them on the phone it was a very easy process.”
Aabram finally received her absentee ballot on Nov. 2, one day before the election. While Aabram said she’s grateful to have received the ballot, she said she wonders what happened to the original ballot.
“It could have gotten lost in the mail, someone could have stolen it, or it could have never been sent,” she said. “I have no idea.”
Aabram said one of the main reasons she wanted an absentee ballot was to cast a vote for Trump.
“I wanted to say that I voted for Trump in this election,” Aabram said. “I’m glad I finally got my ballot so that I can say I voted for him for the rest of my life.”
The poll asked students whether they were registered to vote as a Democrat, Republican, or neither. About 60% of students said they were registered as a Republican, 38.4% said “neither,” and less than 2% said they were registered as a Democrat.
Finally, the poll asked students what state’s election they were voting in. The top five states were Michigan, Ohio, California, Texas, and Illinois.
Lehman said he expects that Biden will win in his home state of Michigan, based on the 2018 midterm election and the state’s overall attitude toward Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“In conservative circles, there’s backlash against Whitmer, but I think she has the support of Michiganders,” Lehman said.
Junior Jack Rowe, who is currently in the nation’s capital completing the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, said he is impressed by Trump for following through with many of the ideas he campaigned on in 2016. During the past four years, Rowe said he has been especially pleased by Trump’s deregulatory policies.
“They’ve done a world of good,” Rowe said. “Businesses have grown and middle-class families have been saving money and earning more.”
Rowe said the most important issue for him is the president’s stance on abortion. He opposes Biden for claiming he will codify Roe v. Wade if elected.
Additionally, Rowe said he has come to appreciate Trump’s education policy. Rowe praised the 1776 Commission, which is an education committee commission proposed by Trump in response to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, for providing students with a truthful account of the American founding and experiment.
In the event that Trump is elected to serve a second term, Rowe said Trump’s greatest legacy could be restoring faith in the American experiment among the nation’s youth.
“He encourages people to be taught that our ideas are admirable and good,” Rowe said. “Though we may imperfectly pursue them, those founding ideas are still worth striving for.”
Another reason Rowe said he opposes Biden is because he said he thinks the candidate’s policies would affirm people’s contempt for America.
“Biden’s administration would allow for a doubling down on this pervasive, hateful idea that America is
inherently evil in a lot of ways,” Rowe said. “Biden doesn’t believe it, but he would embolden people who carry that thesis.”
Although he’s currently in Washington, D.C., Rowe spent the summer in his home state of Minnesota and witnessed the effects of a divided nation in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
“Whenever I went over to Minneapolis I would drive by burned gas stations and tire stores,” Rowe said. “We are fundamentally divided in that we could not agree on very basic things in 2020, and crises have a funny way of exposing those weaknesses.”
Mackyntoich said she realizes that the election is very contentious but said it has complicated parts of life that don’t need to be politicized. She’s had friends unfollow her on social media for supporting Trump, and said she believes this election has made everybody’s opinions more extreme.
“I can disagree with people and still see the merit in being their friend and see the value in those relationships,” Mackyntoich said. “But it’s ‘cool’ right now to cancel people who aren’t in line with mainstream narrative, and people are jumping on the cancel bandwagon.”
Wilkins said she disliked Trump more than she disliked Clinton in the 2016 election and is supporting Biden in 2020.
“The 2016 election was what made me realize I was pretty liberal,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins added that she doesn’t mind having a moderate like Biden in the presidential office and thinks that a Biden victory could give Democrats a solid political strategy.
“You put your extremes in congress where they can duke it out, and you put your moderate in the presidency so they can work with both sides,” Wilkins said.
For Wilkins, the most appealing aspects of Biden’s platform includes his policies on immigration, human rights reform, LGBTQ+ issues, and climate change.
She’s most opposed to Trump’s policies on immigration, climate change, and COVID-19.
“Whatever economic gains he made with the economy Obama left him, those have all been destroyed with his COVID response,” Wilkins said. “He pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords and denies climate change. Those are just a few of the many things that he has done that have made me very firmly believe I will be voting against him this election.”
If Biden were to be elected, Wilkins said she hopes to see the nation move away from anger and violence. One of the reasons she opposes Trump is because Wilkins said he normalizes disrespect toward other people in his language.
“I would hope that a Joe Biden presidency would bring back some civility to American politics,” Wilkins said. “I would hope that it could help alleviate some of the gridlock in congress.”
In the event that Trump wins reelection, Wilkins said she is most concerned about the division between Americans growing deeper and the changes in America’s relationship with foreign powers.
For senior Callahan Stoub, foreign policy is one of the most important issues to consider in a presidential election. She was impressed when Trump’s administration released a national defense strategy in 2018 in which he will be “strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.”
“One of Trump’s strengths has been that nobody knows what he is going to do,” Stoub said. “Who would have thought he would kill an Iranian general? That was a big deal and was important for the U.S. maintaining a strong role in the Middle East.”
Stoub said she was in Israel when Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani died and added that her tour guides did worry about retaliation because of the strong relationship Israel had developed with the U.S.
“Recognizing Jerusalem and having a relationship with Israel that is friendlier than Obama has made Israel a lot stronger as a country,” Stoub said.
Stoub said one of Biden’s campaign principles has been about bringing stability and level-headedness to America’s foreign policy.
“I don’t think being stagnant or sneaking that sense of stability into foreign policy is the right direction for the U.S. to be in a position of strength internationally,” she said.
Senior Aidan Wheeler said one of his biggest concerns with Biden is the candidate’s mental health.
“I’m terrified of having this horribly incompetent president during such a momentous time in our nation’s history,” Wheeler said.
Regardless of which candidate wins the 2020 presidential election, Wheeler said he’s anticipating unrest across America for several weeks.
“I don’t think that we’re going to know on Nov. 3 who’s the president,” Wheeler said. “And I don’t think people are prepared for that scenario at all, because you’re going to have rioting on Nov. 3, and it could go on for weeks.”
Both Wheeler and Stoub said they could see this election ending similarly to the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
“You could foresee a Supreme Court decision coming in, and if Barrett is the one who casts the swing vote, then all hell is going to break loose,” Wheeler said.