Watching the build-up to the 2016 Presidential Election – and particularly the Republican candidate campaigns – as a British citizen is nearly comical; everyone and their donkey is throwing their hat into the ring, whilst Donald Trump continues to make outrageous comments, and Hilary Clinton sinks deeper into the muggy depths of her email “scandal”.
However, it is always worth speaking to the people who will actually be voting in the election next year to find out how Trump is being received. With comments dubbed as racist, sexist, and completely ludicrous (“we need to build a wall”), Trump strikes most people I know as a buffoon with nothing to lose.
After having spent five days in the United States of America (as part of a study abroad exchange) I can say that is not how some Americans see Trump.
A lot of people see Trump as being exactly what America needs – even some Democrats. He may be wealthy beyond belief, but that does not mean he is stupid. Indeed, quite the opposite. He is direct, clear, and precise in his demands. One person I spoke with said: “he doesn’t take any s**t. He says it how it is.
“He’ll say: ‘if you are not an American – get out.’ People like that.”
Sometimes it is hard to hear those words, but they are true. In the UK, people do complain about immigration, but the idea of speaking out against it – when caring for those least fortunate is the norm – is seen as highly immoral.
Congrats @LindseyGrahamSC. You just got 4 points in your home state of SC—far better than zero nationally. You’re only 26 pts behind me.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2015
But Trump – just as Nigel Farage did during the UK election this year – speaks to how ordinary Americans feel.
If the polls are to be believed, a lot of Americans feel the same. Monmouth University released figures today, showing Trump to be leading among Republican voters in South Carolina; claiming 30% of support (double than second placed Ben Carson).
However, the National Review makes an interesting observation. Although Trump’s support is deep, it may not be for long. It reminds us that some nomination votes last many months; this means less popular candidates drop out after disappointing results. Therefore, despite initial popularity, candidates left at the end may see their support dry up, as people choose another, more viable candidate.
This is similar to what happens in the French Presidential Elections: the first round sees diluted voting, with people voting for parties on, perhaps, issue bases, or for more radical parties.
When these candidates do not reach the second round, votes will concentrate on the most viable candidate for Presidential nominee.
Nevertheless, when Jeremy Corbyn announced his candidacy for Labour leader, many (including myself) thought an unknown would never have a chance in the Labour Party. Now it looks an awful lot like he will get over 50% in first preferences at the first round of the vote count.
Will Trump’s support fizzle-out? There are still 440 days left until America goes to the polls, and endurance is required for Trump’s vote to stay buoyant. On the other hand, Ukip went from a fringe party to a political player in May, and perhaps Trump’s straight talk will hold out.