First-time Florida voters seek change

Young voters in Florida, a battleground state for the US Presidential elections, think that America faces image crisis during Trump administration for its stance on climate change and handling of coronavirus pandemic.

They say Donald Trump has done pretty well in economic front [though some say as continuation of the previous Obama administration’s policy], he does not care much about science-based policies that speak of sustainability.

“Trump is not doing anything good as far as climate change is concerned,” said Samantha Schwarz, a first-year student of Biology at the University of South Florida, Tampa on Thursday.

She is one of the 12 students, mostly first time voters, who shared their views in an interaction with a group of journalists virtually participating at the 2020 US Presidential Election Reporting Seminar organised by the Hawaii-based East-West Centre.

Samantha said she is worried over the frequent climatic events like the hurricanes in Florida and the wildfire in California.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, series of wildfires as of October 27 this year have burned nearly 44 lakh acres of California’s 100 million acres of land, making 2020 the largest wildfire season recorded in California’s modern history.

Trump withdrew from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation in 2017.

The young voters wary of climate change said they have mostly voted early for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, considering that his policies towards environment, coronavirus pandemic, immigration and foreign relations would be better than that of Trump.

This notion is significant given the fact that Florida has been a determining factor in the victory of the presidents. Florida was responsible for the victory of Republican George W Bush (Jr) over his Democratic rival Al-Gore in 1992 and ensured President Trump’s success in 2016.

This year, Biden is ahead of Trump in the opinion polls. In Florida, most polls found 50-52 percent support for Biden and highest 47 percent support for Trump.

Liz Dorn, a political scientist and program coordinator at the East-West Centre, said Florida has 29 of the total 538 electoral votes of the 50 US states. A candidate will need a minimum of 270 votes to the president in the elections to be held on November 3.

Analysts say immigrants and minority groups in the upcoming US elections will play an important role.

Many of the African Americans, who vote for the Democrats, did not cast ballots in 2016 elections, making a difference that led to the victory of Trump.

This year seems different with large voter turnouts, including the African-Americans.

“If Trump remains president, he wouldn’t do better,” said Samantha.

She is worried over Trump’s foreign policy too. She said she recently visited London and found people there looking down America because of Trump – something that hurt her. She thinks Biden can help improve foreign relations.

Alexis King, a first time voter, who cast ballot for Biden a week back, said she comes from a Hispanic immigrant family and share the pains of the immigrants. The Trump administration has anti-immigrant stance, which left many of the immigrant families and their children in peril.

In contrast, Biden seems immigrant-friendly. “I hope to see better,” she said.

Samantha Cavallaro, a student of Psychology at the University of South Florida, says she feels too bad when she compares the number of Covid-19 patients in Australia and USA.

Australia has less than 30,000 COVID-19 cases, while the figure is more than 9 million in the USA. Some 2.3 lakh people died in the world’s most powerful country. Trump, who suffered from Covid-19, has all along been indifferent on use of face masks.

“Our administration is not handling the pandemic with science in the name of economy,” Cavallaro said.

Asked what if Trump again comes to power, Abdullah, another student of the university, said he will continue to support and work for the Democrats.

“The Democrats have higher degree of respect for environment, immigrants and of course, the American citizens.”

Samantha Schwarz said even before the pandemic she decided not to vote for Trump. The way Trump administration handled it was like a nail in the coffin.


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