With November upon us, one thing is looming in the minds of the world: the American election. On Nov. 8, Americans living in the United States (U.S.) and across the world, including students studying in Canada, will vote for their next president—Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
There are plenty of American students at Carleton University who are eligible to vote in the election.
“I plan on living in the U.S. later, but the result could affect my decision about whether to stay here or not. Both [candidates] want to implement a lot of policies, especially with Trump wanting to make some drastic changes, so the vote is important.”—Mark McGovern, first-year journalism student at Carleton and American citizen
Mark McGovern is a first-year journalism student who was born and raised in Vancouver, but qualifies to vote in the U.S. election through his American parentage. Like many, he said he recognizes the uniqueness of this election.
“It’s a weird election to be the first one to vote in. I wasn’t 18 for the Canadian election last year, so this is the first one I can vote in,” McGovern said. “I grew up watching other elections, and they’re so much tamer than this.”
Rather than travelling across the border to vote at a polling station, McGovern said he will vote through a ballot in the mail.
“I get mailed a ballot, and send it back,” he said. “But I have to vote significantly before [Nov. 8], because they need to get it back in time.”
A unique election
“The fights the candidates have on Twitter get the election a lot of attention, which seems kind of childish,” said Jared Van Reet, a first-year neuroscience and mental health student at Carleton who is originally from Boston. “It does make it more interesting for students though.”
Van Reet added he thinks this election in particular is unique for world viewers because the coverage and campaigns have been promoted across a wider variety of platforms than in the past.
Paden Stanton, a second-year international affairs student on exchange at Carleton from the University of Maine, said he thinks the fact Trump might become president has definitely had an effect on students wanting to express their opinion about the election.
“I think that everybody is getting a lot more access to information, if you’re online at all you have been involved in the election on some level,” Stanton said. “Everybody has a friend who has posted about the election.”
He added the increase in election activity on social media makes him and millennials more interested in politics.
“Social media is playing the largest role in any election so far,” Stanton said. “There’s a lot of discussion amongst millennials, who are now able to communicate their thoughts and beliefs in more ways than ever before.”
How will Canadian post-secondary institutions be affected?
For a while, many joked that Americans will be moving to Canada because of this election, but John Higginbotham, a Carleton professor who specializes in American politics and policy, said American students arriving in Canada due to the election results could be a reality.
“In the very remote chance that Trump is elected, we’ll get more students wanting to stay in Canada—a little like the 1960s when so many Americans came to Canada to resist the war in Vietnam and escape the draft. Tens of thousands came after that,” Higginbotham said.
Higginbotham added that he believes that international students—from Europe and Asia, for instance—could start becoming more attracted to studying at Canadian schools if Trump is elected as president, as Trump plans to cancel the J1 visa, which is a student visa many use when studying at American institutions.
“If Trump were elected, he’s anti-immigrant, he’s anti-foreign, he’s nativist,” he said. “Getting more international students would help Canada, it would probably bring many more people to Canada.”
Who are students voting for?
“I’d assume students will vote 90 per cent for Hillary Clinton,” Higginbotham said.
But he added students have a tough voting choice, because many supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries.
“A lot of students were supporting [Sanders] earlier in the election, and . . . the leadership of the Sanders campaign wants his supporters to now vote for Hillary,” Higginbotham said. “But everybody will be kind of holding their noses because decades of Republican attacks on the Clintons have left their mark, and there’s a pretty high level of distrust.”
He said this distrust and the scandals uncovered throughout the election campaigns are part of the reason it has been gaining worldwide attention, but added negative attention is ordinary, at least for one side of the campaign.
“I’d consider [Clinton’s] scandals sort of average to a normal year, and the Trump phenomen[on] is completely off the scale of anything I’ve heard of,” Higginbotham said.
American students in Canada: will they stay or will they go . . . home?
This “Trump phenomenon” would be enough to scare some people away, but Stanton said he will return to the U.S. once his exchange is completed.
“I won’t jump ship that easy,” he said. “There’ll just need to be room for change, and there will be a lot of change if Trump is elected.”
McGovern, however, is more concerned about what Trump’s America will look like.
“I plan on living in the U.S. later, but the result could affect my decision about whether to stay here or not,” he said. “Both [candidates] want to implement a lot of policies, especially with Trump wanting to make some drastic changes, so the vote is important.”
While Stanton said he voted for Clinton and has supported her for a long time, Higginbotham warned Clinton isn’t all good.
“A lot of people . . . are warning against too much optimism about [Clinton],” he said. “They don’t really trust her to head up and carry out the Sanders agenda.”
Higginbotham also said the U.S. election could be crucial for Canada because Canadians are dependent on American trade.
“It’s a very bad election for Canada, and very risky, that we’re depending so much on a U.S. election, and such a failure of the Republican nomination system,” he said. “We’re talking about the fate of the world’s largest power.”
Whatever the result, students at Carleton, throughout America, and across the world will head to the voting booths on Nov. 8 with a big decision to make.