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Michigan State students weigh in on the upcoming presidential election

October 27, 2020
<p>Voting ballot illustration by Hope Ann Flores.</p>

Voting ballot illustration by Hope Ann Flores.

Photo by Hope Ann Flores | The State News

The upcoming 2020 U.S presidential election will be one of the most unique in our country’s history. In the middle of a pandemic, millions of people are preparing to vote in-person or from home.

In recent months, young people in the United States have made their voice heard by fighting against racial injustice and getting involved in the upcoming election. 

The State News conducted a survey with 321 responses from Michigan State students on their thoughts and opinions on the upcoming election. The survey took results from Oct. 2 to Oct. 5 and asked MSU students who they would be voting for and why, how they would be voting, what issues were important to them and much more. All results taken have just under a 6% margin of error in either direction.

The Candidates

When students were asked “Which candidates will you vote for in the 2020 Presidential election?”, 73.2% of MSU respondents said that they will be voting for the Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. On the other hand, 24.3% of students who responded said that they would be voting for the Republican candidates President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence

The remaining 2.5% of students were voting for a third party candidate, or were undecided.


International relations senior Alan Shulman has been a Biden supporter since the beginning of his campaign. Shulman traveled to Iowa on caucus night to represent the Biden campaign in a district. Shulman is also president for Spartans for Biden.

For Shulman, he believes that Biden has the ability to reach to both sides of the political aisle and found Biden’s experience in politics the most appealing.

“He’s had so much impact, so much legislation,” Shulman said. “He's had so much influence on political affairs in the United States, some good, some bad. He has so much experience. He's so very unique as he's so respected across the political ideologies. We've had conservative Republicans come out and say they have the utmost respect for him. We have very progressive Democrats say they have the utmost respect for him, and that's what we need in our country right now.”

Experience architecture sophomore Emma Riddering said she felt that the Trump-Pence ticket was more appealing after the last four years with Trump in office.

"I don't trust Biden to be a strong figure for our country is essentially what it boils down to,” Riddering said. “I think Trump has proven that he can make a change, and hopefully will after coronavirus settles down.”

When asked why those  candidates had their vote, students who responded to the survey had a variety of answers to choose from. However, the “lesser of two evils” option held the majority of votes at 37.7%. 


Interdisciplinary studies in social science senior Greg Stevens said that for the upcoming election, he decided that he was going to vote for all other positions on his ballot, but not the Presidential election, citing his displeasure with both candidates.

“As far President Trump goes, his moral character and what he represents for me as a Christian, I can't stand behind the way he represents himself,” Stevens said. "The way he disregards other people in the way he mistreats and attacks people ... and I just can’t stand behind that and support him and support what he represents.”

“As for Vice President Biden, from a policy perspective I can't stand behind his policies, especially regarding religious freedom, economic policy, just in general policy wise I can't get behind him," Stevens also said. "Even though from a character perspective, I don't mind Vice President Biden, but his policies and what he had to support, and I wouldn't want his Supreme Court justices. I feel like I'm kind of in between a rock and a hard place where I can't reconcile picking either of those candidates with my Christian faith.”

Policy Importance

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Many issues are up for debate this upcoming election. The economy, health care, climate change and ongoing social justice movements are all crucial to voters on all sides of the political spectrum. 

Among Michigan State respondents, 61.7% said that issues of police brutality and racial equality was a major issue for them. After that, nearly 60% of respondents said that climate change and COVID-19 were important issues to them. 

Health care, gender and LGBTQ+ equality, the economy, affordable college tuition, and immigration were also high vote garners in the important issues poll.


Economic and environmental geography senior Tirstan Walters is concerned about his job prospects after he graduates in December as the pandemic continues to shrink the job market.

“Of course you want to ensure that there's an economy for us to go into and especially with COVID now,” Walters said. “That was a big issue for me because I'm graduating here in December, so I'd like there to be jobs out there for me once I graduate, and the way the current pandemic has played out under the president has not been beneficial for me whatsoever.”

Walters decided that Biden would be getting his vote in the upcoming election not just because of his job prospects but also because climate change was a key component for him in this election as well.

“The biggest thing for me is his policy on climate change,” Walters said. “Whereas he's taking a step to combat ensuring the U.S. is net-zero carbon by 2035, while also ensuring that previous practices will maintain employment until the nuances are implemented. So those are big things for me and coming from Joe Biden that had me excited.”

Political science sophomore George Spicer said he was sold on Trump’s reelection bid after seeing his policies in the Middle East.

“A big thing that I really, really liked that Trump did was that politicians have been saying for decades now that they're going for peace in the Middle East,” Spicer said. “I think Donald Trump has taken tremendous strides. Especially to bring that peace in the Middle East.”

In addition to the Middle East, Riddering said she felt that the Trump tax plan was beneficial to the middle class.

"I think the tax breaks are for ordinary people, middle class people," Riddering said. "I think that's a very typical thing people say when they like Trump. Also peace in the Middle East. We're not talking about ISIS anymore, which is a super good thing.”

How to vote

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this election is the way in which people will be voting. Millions of voters have already cast their ballots via the absentee ballot route.

Michigan State student respondents were split in how they casted their ballots. Most submitted their ballots via absentee, but 34% of students mailed their absentee ballots while another 23.7% dropped off their absentee ballot in a voter drop box. Additionally, 31.8% of students decided that they would be voting in-person on election day.


According to the survey, 85% of students are registered to vote in locations outside of East Lansing, while another 12.5% are registered to vote in East Lansing.

Political theory and constitutional democracy sophomore Jack Harrison said he is choosing to vote Republican down the entire ballot. Harrison decided that the absentee ballot was the best way for him to vote in his first presidential election.

"I’m actually from Ann Arbor, Michigan, but I'm currently residing in East Lansing, about an hour away," Harrison said. "Actually, my ballot is in Ann Arbor so I anticipate going home to fill it out, and then I'm going to make sure I hand it in to my city clerk's office. Unfortunately there is all this information and stuff going on just about voting by mail, but by putting it in my clerk's box I'm confident to do that. I think it is a great way for people to vote and to stay safe, especially for older folks.”

Journalism sophomore Carson Hathaway said he decided the opposite. Hathaway said he will be voting for Biden in the upcoming election and decided that absentee was a good option for him, despite some of his former skepticism.

“I was a little skeptical and maybe I still am on the whole mail-in ballots because it's never really been done like this before,” Hathaway said. “Until I heard that there have been some other elections where other people have voted this way, not as much as now, but it's still happened before.”

The presidential election isn’t the only thing on the ballot this cycle. Judges, senators, state legislators and much more will be decided Nov. 3. 

As Election Day draws near, it is clear the college student voting demographic will have a large impact on the results of this election and the future of our nation moving forward.

This article is part of our Election 2020 print edition. View the full issue here.


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