With the US presidential elections fewer than a hundred days away, no one ventures to forecast who will become the head of the world’s most powerful state. At the same time, more and more US experts and various European politicians are afraid that the winner may be the Republican Donald Trump who has made some scandalous statements lately, showing ignorance of the basics of foreign policy. This includes his comments that NATO is outdated, the allies must pay the US for support, and trade agreements should be revised. But what surprises perhaps the most is his failure to understand the situation in Ukraine, particularly his inability or unwillingness to understand that Russia has illegally annexed Crimea and deployed its troops in eastern Ukraine. So, this raises the question why many Americans support the New York tycoon who has never held any offices but became notorious for enriching himself on real estate by inheriting a billion dollars from his father. Moreover, one of the most important duties of a US president is the supreme commander-in-chief.
The Day requested Professor Aubrey JEWETT, Department of Political Science, University of Central Florida, to explain why almost a half of Americans support Trump, what is happening to the society that is backing an outright populist, and why Americans do not appreciate the achievements of the Barack Obama administration, such as economic growth, creation of about 15 million jobs, etc.
“Many white, working class and middle class Americans are very frustrated with President Obama and the Democratic Party and they dislike Hillary Clinton very much and they are very concerned about the state of the economy and the direction of the country (more than 75 precent of Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction). These same voters also think many of the typical Republican presidential candidates would not do much to change politics and policy and thus they supported Donald Trump. Trump is a populist who is making an appeal based on voter’s worries. Thus his call to build a wall between the US and Mexico to cut down on illegal immigration, his call to redo trade deals with other nations to get better terms for the US, his call to fight back more strongly against Islamic extremism and terrorism, and his call to support police officers and crack down on crime. Trump’s supporters are very motivated and really think that four years with Hillary Clinton as president would be a disaster for the country. There are some Republicans who have said they will not vote for Trump, but most Republicans will – even if they do not like Trump very much, because they really hate Hillary Clinton. Hillary is really disliked by many people in the US – her negative approval ratings are about as high as Donald Trump’s. Republicans do not like her because she has represented the Democratic Party and their liberal ideology for decades and because they think she is unethical and not trustworthy. Many independent voters also worry about her trustworthiness and don’t particularly like her. Interestingly, among the Democratic Party’s most liberal supporters (the people who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary) Hillary is considered too close to the establishment and too conservative (many Bernie Sanders supporters will probably not vote for Hillary). Hillary does not have a pleasant personality like her husband and former President Bill Clinton. Bill always came across as a nice guy who truly likes people (even many of his political enemies said he was a nice guy that they would like to have a beer with), while Hillary always comes across as not very friendly. Part of Hillary’s problem is she has been in the public eye for a long time and has been linked to a great number of personal and professional scandals. Part of her problem is just her basic personality – she is not really a people person. Hillary’s acceptance speech was solid, and I expect her public opinion numbers will go up a few percentage points now that the Democratic convention is over (this is called the post-convention bounce in public opinion polls – Donald Trump enjoyed a surge in popularity after the Republican Convention finished). I don’t think that Donald Trump’s latest comments about the Russians releasing Hillary’s 30,000 deleted emails will make much difference to the average voter. Trump has said a number of pretty outrageous things and this one is not nearly as inflammatory as most of them. I think it will be a very close election. Hillary will get the support of most of the Democratic party loyal supporters – Black voters, Hispanic voters, younger voters, and single women. Trump will get most of the vote or Republican supporters including white men, married white women, and religious conservatives. I am not sure who will win – on one level it would seem most unlikely for someone like Donald Trump to be elected given his personality and changing political positions and tendency to say things that are really controversial. But a lot of Americans are looking for a change and even if they do not really like Donald Trump, they really fear four more years of rule by the Democratic Party. If Hillary Clinton can convince enough people that she can bring positive change then she may win yet and become the first female US president. If not, Donald Trump will be the next president. Most Trump supporters do not feel that the economy has improved very much. Even though there have been many jobs created since the Great Recession not as many people are in the workforce today, many are underemployed, and even more feel insecure in their jobs. Trump supporters think that Obama and Clinton will not do anything different and are more worried about making the country more fair and equal through redistribution rather than growing the economy and protecting American jobs. They think Trump with his success in business will be able to do a better job on the economy and in getting trade deals that are more favorable to Americans.”
Andrew SELEE, Executive Vice President, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington:
“We won’t know the full effect of the two conventions on US public opinion yet for a few days. The Republican convention produced a strong bounce in the polls for Donald Trump last week, putting him ahead in the polls, and Hillary Clinton supporters hope that the Democratic convention, which was well-scripted and enthusiastic, vaults her back into the lead in the presidential race. Clinton supporters hope that voters see a United Democratic Party, in contrast to a divided Republican Party, and that they are turned off by Trump’s comments about Russia hacking Clinton’s emails. If that doesn’t happen and Trump continues to lead the polls, it will be a long four months for the Clinton campaign.”