UWF students react to the 2020 presidential election

Many people would agree that the 2020 U.S. presidential election was one of the most interesting and stressful in modern history. Voter turnout was the highest it has been in over 100 years, with roughly 160 million votes cast. No matter who you voted for, this election cycle is one in which Americans will not soon forget. 

Students at the University of West Florida had the opportunity to vote in this election, many for the first time. In a survey of 21 communication students at UWF, 95.2% of them voted in this election. In total, 50% of those students voted in-person, while 50% voted by mail.

The survey of students within the Department of Communication also suggests that party affiliation among UWF students may be relatively equal. According to the survey, 38.1% of students were affiliated with the Democratic Party, and 38.1% of students were affiliated with the Republican Party in this election. Additionally, 19% of students were affiliated with a third party, while 4.8% of students preferred not to share which political party they were affiliated with. 

Overall, the slight majority of students in this survey were pleased with the outcome of this election. In total, 57.1% of the students said that they were happy with the outcome of the election, while 19% said that they were not happy with the outcome of the election. Further, 23.9% of students indicated that they were not sure how they felt about the outcome of this election.

Several students expressed their opinions regarding the 2020 presidential election. Many believe that this election cycle was unnecessarily tedious. 

“I think that this was one of the most stressful, drawn-out elections and I hope to never go through another like this,” said Alex Flanders, a senior at UWF. 

Critiques from this election season come from a variety of factors. Many of these factors relate to the candidates who are running for office.

“I feel like this election cycle can be looked back on as a mockery of our democratic processes,” an anonymous UWF student said. “Trump’s constant complaining about voter fraud and the refusal to help with a smooth transition of power is just annoying.”

COVID-19 has also played a role in the overall stress this election season has caused. Among other things, COVID-19 has been a crucial topic of debate among candidates.

“This election was very tumultuous; COVID-19, conspiracy theories and a lack of respect have run rampant this year,” an anonymous UWF student said. “Despite some of the good things that Trump has accomplished, I can’t help but feel he has furthered the divide and fanned the flames of discontent for his own gain. Overall, the election of Biden will probably make little difference with respect to the level of dialogue in the country.”

Many voters this election season are not strong supporters of either major candidate. This has made the selection of a candidate even more difficult among voters.

“It’s a shame that we’ve come to a point where our society is having to choose between the lesser of two evils,” said Darby Drapeau, a junior at UWF. “However, instead of focusing on the negative aspect of that realization, I hope we can learn from it. I hope we can do better in the future.”

In response to what some believe is a vote for a “lesser of two evils”, a fraction of voters decided to take another route and vote for a third-party candidate. Although the likelihood of a third-party candidate winning the election is slim, many third-party voters believe that voting third party is a chance to voice what they believe in.

“There is always talk about voting third party being a wasted vote, but it’s a complete waste of your vote to not use your voice and give the vote to someone that represents what you believe in and issues that matter to you,” said Lindsay Darnell, a junior at UWF. “The two-party system survives because they count on people being afraid to ‘waste their vote’ on a losing party and vote for the lesser of two evils. While the third party may not win, voting for a losing candidate isn’t a waste because you get to use your voice which tells those politicians in the major parties what issues to focus on to win your vote.” 

This election has brought forth not only controversies surrounding the candidates but also the issues at stake facing the United States. The majority of voters would agree that this election season was groundbreaking and historic.  

“I think this year’s election was unlike any in history,” said Anni Ochs, a senior at UWF. “With the confusion and tension surrounding the pandemic and mixed messages from the media about mail-in ballots, I think the people who participated in the election by voting feel out of control. The past year had been chaotic, and I think that we need to put the rigorous political clutter behind us and focus on uniting within our communities. I hope the change brought by the election is a positive step forward.”

Regardless of which candidate they voted for, many student voters are ready for change. They believe that bipartisan approaches among candidates would benefit the country as a whole.

“I’m ready for all the challenges to be over so we can move on,” an anonymous UWF student said. 

College and Gen Z voters makeup one of the largest voting groups in the United States and have contributed greatly to the 2020 presidential election. Democrats, Republicans and Independents all cast their vote in hopes of one thing: change. Only time will tell if this change is achievable among those who have been elected to power within the United States.