By Aditya Saligrama
Election result headlines on both sides of the Atlantic resulted in international shock this year. Britain voted to leave the European Union in June. Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States in November.
It seemed everything the media had predicted regarding the outcome of these elections was wrong. Overall, pollsters had completely whiffed on comprehending the political climate in their respective countries.
The results of the votes in both countries marked a shift in the political climate of first-world countries, from welcoming globalization and making immigration easier, to isolationism and a desire to put protection of one’s own country over any other responsibility. Those who supported the latter ideology were especially enthusiastic and showed up to vote in much higher numbers than earlier polling had predicted.
After the dust settled on the Brexit vote, students from all over the United Kingdom, in addition to some in the United States, weighed in on the decision to leave the European Union.
Senior Sinclair Emans was born in the UK and moved to the US for high school.
“I believe that [Brexit] was one of the biggest mistakes the UK could have made given the current circumstances of national security in Europe and the state of global xenophobia,” Emans said.
In The Varsity, the official student newspaper for the University of Cambridge, five high school and college students shared their thoughts on the vote this past June.
Keir Baker is a third-year law student at Selwyn College in Cambridge and has been a guest writer for The Guardian.
“Every single vote for Leave has subliminally given Farage, Gove and others a mandate to spread the bile and hatred which the EU when it was established all those years ago sought to eliminate,” Baker said.
But others were more optimistic. Rose Payne, another Cambridge student, grew up in a rural area, where there were many pockets of Leave voters. She said that a chief problem in this election was the amount of misinformation being spread by the media on both sides.
“The solution to this problem is to work for a more unified society, to work with those who voted on both sides against what divides us,” Payne said.
Remain voter Xavier Bisits called for those on his side to stop attacking and vilifying Leave voters.
“It’s absurd to suggest that supporting anything less than total freedom of movement constitutes racism,” writes Bisits.
And it may well have been Democrats’ attacking of Trump supporters that sealed the fate of the United States presidential election earlier this month. After Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton labeled Trump voters as a “basket of deplorables” in August, many US citizens were put off by the strategy. Indeed, over 65% of US citizens, including 45% of Clinton backers, thought the tactic was unfair and unsavory, according to the Washington Post.
In both cases, it was the lack of enthusiastic voters that ultimately proved pollsters wrong. There simply wasn’t enough enthusiasm generated around persuading citizens to vote Remain or Democrat. In the US, in key swing states, apathy towards Clinton’s campaign tilted the results towards Trump, according to PBS. And according to Bloomberg, the 2.8 million eligible voters who were no-shows at the polls entirely benefited the Leave effort.
To many rural voters, Leave and Trump signalled change and a more vibrant future, free of the perceived pitfalls of immigration. Many voted on the basis that immigrants were transforming the manufacturing industry and taking their jobs. As a result, many in rural areas who had voted Democrat in 2008 and 2012 overwhelmingly voted for Trump this year.
Many students in the US have been dissatisfied with the results of the election. Emans draws parallels to the earlier Brexit vote.
“I also believe that it represented the age of global xenophobia that has come around,” Emans said.
The results of the election has had many students calling for unity among US citizens. Hannah Kotler writes for Skidmore News, the student newspaper for Skidmore University.
“If we, those upset with the election, are truly looking for repair, unity, and acceptance in the US, we cannot exclude Trump supporters from our lives,” she writes in a post.
Trump is scheduled to begin his presidency on January 20th at noon. British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to invoke Article 50 by March 2017, officially leaving the European Union.