Following Donald Trump’s upset victory on Tuesday, students should take time to understand why it happened and what it means for the future of this country’s political processes. With exit poll data now at our disposal, the divisions that separated our communities and that resulted in the divisive election have become apparent and should motivate students and politicians alike to begin bridging gaps between different groups.
Going forward, Trump and his administration must address and repair the divides across the country. If they fail to heed these demographic divisions, then the partisan cleavages will only deepen and set the groundwork for an even more contentious election season four years from now.
Reporting a voter turnout rate of 54 percent, the exit poll data from Edison Research shows that both Trump and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton held sway over specific enclaves of voters. The most striking breakdown between Trump and Clinton supporters was in race. Among white voters, 58 percent supported Trump, while 37 percent supported Clinton. At the same time, minority voters demonstrated a clear preference, with 88 percent of Black voters, 65 percent of Hispanic voters and 65 percent of Asian-American voters supporting Clinton.
Such a distinction demonstrates that voters from different racial backgrounds had hugely different opinions on the candidates. Many members of the Hsipanic, Black and Asian communities do not feel that Trump represents their best interests as president. He has made incendiary remarks on race, including his labeling of Mexicans as rapists. He has also promised to implement racially discriminatory policies, such as stop-and-frisk policing and, at times, advocated for a complete ban on Muslim immigration. As CNN commentator Van Jones said on election night, “Donald Trump has a responsibility to come out and reassure people that he is going to be the president of all the people who he insulted and offended and brushed aside.”
The poll also showed that Trump and Clinton voters perceive the country to be in very different conditions. Of those who voted for Clinton, 83 percent believed the condition of the nation’s economy was excellent, while 15 percent thought it was poor. Just as telling, 63 percent of people who believed that life would be worse for future generations of Americans voted for Trump. This disparity between how Trump and Clinton see two different Americas is stark and requires amending going forward.
These gaps in voter concerns must not be ignored in a government that has nearly all its major branches controlled by one major party. The House and Senate will need to craft legislation that serves not only the needs voiced by Trump supporters, but also the other half of the country that did not vote for Trump. An example of this is the 76 percent of Clinton supporters who oppose the building of a wall along the Mexican border, a cornerstone of Trump’s immigration policy.
Trump must integrate these opinions, thoughts and concerns when he officially conducts his policies as president. Trump must, as he claimed in his victory speech, “pledge to every citizen of our land” that he “will be president for all Americans.” If he cannot support the needs of voters from both sides of the political spectrum, he will not be able to serve effectively as a leader.
What students and politicians must take away from this plethora of data and information is that across this country, groups and communities have fundamentally divided and different views of what they want to see in America. This election did not just yield a candidate. It also exposed ideological divides based on race, education and policy concerns — the very divisions that contributed to the negativity, bigotry, violence and poisonous rhetoric of this election cycle.
Now more than ever, Americans must find common ground and understanding. Otherwise, elections as vitriolic as this past one will become the norm.
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