With the 2016 election less than a week away, many college students are feeling the pressure of finally aligning themselves with a presidential candidate. After all, this election is huge for many college students. Not only is it one of the most polarizing elections in modern history, it's also ushering in a new group of voters. For many college students, this is the first time they can vote in a presidential election. In light of this, shouldn’t they make their first vote count?
Unfortunately for these new voters, the 2016 election has featured the highest percentage of voter dissatisfaction from over the past two decades. Pew Research has found that 41 percent of Americans can’t choose between Hillary or Trump because they don’t believe either will make a good president. Furthermore, 55 percent of Trump supporters report that they are simply casting a non-Hillary vote, while 50 percent of Hillary voters are merely throwing a non-Trump vote. In essence, the 2016 election isn’t about policy; rather, it's a “lesser of two evils” election.
However, not all college students are willing to subscribe to this mindset. Polls are showing third parties at an all-time high on college campuses and none are polling higher than the Libertarians. According to Ballot Access News, the Libertarian Party was the only party to gain registrations in 2016 - all other parties declined between 2014 and 2016. Furthermore, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 27 percent of respondents can be classified as Libertarians, making Libertarians the biggest group in the electorate.
With such surprising and unbelievable statistics, the question always comes - why? Why are Libertarians polling so strongly in this particular election? Is it disillusionment from the establishment, refusal to support a “lesser of two evils” candidate, or just the ideology of a new generation? Perhaps it’s all three or none of the above. In light of this quandary, Fresh U hit the proverbial streets of college campuses across the country to interview with real college Libertarians.
Starting in the upper piedmont of North Carolina, Fresh U interviewed Appalachian State senior Grant Jeffery. As a Gary Johnson supporter, Grant explained his vote centered mostly on the idea of trust - something he claims the two establishment candidates lack in bounds. However, Grant feels that Johnson is different. Johnson isn’t afraid to admit when he doesn’t know something, nor will he lie to his supporters, Grant says. The third party candidate also has a unique capability of admitting his mistakes, thus putting him in a rare position to actually survive the scrutiny that comes with holding office - unlike Hillary or Trump with their checkered pasts.
"At the Republican National Convention, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told the audience to 'vote your conscience.' It’s not surprising that the Trump-supporting amphitheater responded with boos and jeers.
Voting for Gary Johnson is voting with my conscience because of trust. Trust is such an important component in this election and, unlike the others, I believe Gary when he speaks."
Furthermore, Grant trusts Johnson to break the status quo. Clinton or Trump will merely continue the same statist policies, he says. Their presidencies would ensure more war in foreign countries, more conflict between various races and genders and more drug problems. The national budget will still be disregarded, and the free market will continue to suffer due to anti-free-trade proposals.
"America is in a pivotal place in history, and Gary Johnson has the experience to get things done with none of the baggage.
I don't want to stop Hillary Clinton and I don't want to stop Donald Trump. I want to elect Gary Johnson to the highest office in the land."
Grant isn’t the only college student concerned about the character of the two establishment candidates. Over 600 miles away, Fresh U interviewed Doug Braff, a member of the College Libertarians at New York University.
"I feel that neither of those two have the character to be president seeing as there are many cases where they have lied to the public and where they very likely have committed crimes. I can't stand for that.
Gary Johnson is very honest, wholesome and whenever he makes mistakes or doesn't know the answer to something, he'll acknowledge that. That shows strong character."
Doug also explains that Johnson is the only candidate discussing real solutions to the issues he cares about. Ending the war on drugs, avoiding entangling foreign military interventions and regime changes, balancing the federal budget and lowering the national debt should be the biggest issues of the election, Doug says. He feels that neither Trump nor Clinton have been giving these issues the attention they deserve.
"These things are severely damaging to the country. Yet, Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party are the only ones that are supporting these issues, and I feel that they have a great vision for the country."
Next on Fresh U’s Liberty Tour, this reporter checked in with Charlie Gers, Vice President of the College Libertarians at the University of Minnesota. Focusing more on policy, Charlie explained that there were two key stances Johnson took to win his support. The first was Johnson's approach to foreign policy.
Charlie supports Johnson’s foreign policy because his approach isn’t based on supremacy. Johnson won’t continue to engage in the affairs of other nations or come bearing false promises of “freedom and democracy," Charlie says. Nor will his approach result in the loss of countless innocent lives and the further expansion of the national debt.
"The foreign policy approach of non-interventionism is crucial for a free society. Civil liberties get encroached the most under a warfare state. Unconstitutional, mass surveillance agencies such as the NSA have been created in order to 'defend' us from the villains that our own foreign policy has created."
Secondly, Charlie stands with Johnson because he feels Johnson is an advocate of personal freedom. The key for any society to flourish, Charlie explains, is for individuals to be free to experiment without government interference. For as long as the rights of others are not infringed upon and they are not a danger to others, people should be allowed to live their lives as they wish.
"I am voting for Gary Johnson because I believe that who you choose to love, what you choose to smoke, what you choose to eat [and] what you choose to do with your body, is all up to you and no one should impose their 'morals' on others."
Fourth in this impromptu Libertarian panel, Scott Ernest, a member of the College Libertarians at the University of Montana, explained his support for Johnson. As a nontraditional student, Scott offered unique perspectives and experiences from Fresh U’s other interviewees.
To begin, Scott shared that he wasn’t a traditional Libertarian because he will sometimes register with the Republican party depending on the election. Furthermore, Scott admits that Gary Johnson wasn’t his first choice in the 2016 presidential election. However, according to Scott, Johnson is much better than Trump or Clinton because he is “less dangerous." When asked to elaborate, he explained that he sees one choice as a corrupt businessman who sexually assaults women, and the other a corrupt politician married to a man who sexually assaults women.
"Yes, Johnson is a bit goofy at times. But he is not dangerous.
I wish more people had the capacity to learn about Johnson and the Libertarian Party. It’s a sad fact that we still have a 'two-party' system, despite it always coming around to stab us in the back."
Last but certainly not least, Fresh U interviewed Elizabeth Spies at Stephen F. Austin State University. While she admits to not being completely immersed in everyday politics, Elizabeth nevertheless finds Johnson's platform to be “solid” and “logical." Specifically, she agrees with his stances on immigration, tax reform and prison reform. She also appreciates his support for bodily autonomy and his belief that women alone should retain the right to decide on abortions for themselves. Finally, she welcomes Johnson’s proposals to fix how drug abuse is handled and to end the war on drugs.
However, not every presidential candidate is a perfect fit. Despite supporting the aforementioned policies, Elizabeth still has some concerns about how the Libertarian candidate would handle climate change and environmental protection.
"So far he seems a little vague, and I'm worried he will cut back on certain regulations that may actually be beneficial to the environment."
However, even with these concerns, Elizabeth will still be casting her vote for Johnson. Like so many Americans, Elizabeth is frustrated with the runaround from the other politicians. As such, she appreciates how straightforward Johnson is about his positions.
"Johnson represents personal liberty at its best, and does so without being paid off by special interest groups."
All in all, Fresh U learned that there's a wide range of issues and concerns that have college students casting their vote for Johnson. However, one issue consistent across all five interviewees was the lack of trust they have in the establishment candidates. Unfortunately, this sentiment isn’t reserved solely for Libertarian-minded college students. Gallup released a poll on September 23, 2016, showing that only 33 percent of Americans trusted Donald Trump and only 30 percent trusted Hillary Clinton.
In light of this, maybe it’s time America stopped subscribing to the two party system and the career politicians that come with it. Maybe it's time to let an outsider in and allow Americans to start building trust with the government that leads them. Maybe it's time for Johnson, or maybe it isn’t. Clearly, these five students feel its time for a change and they're not alone. Chances are there is a Libertarian-based group on your campus - give them a try. You don't have to join but as Elizabeth Spies explains:
"It is so important for people to realize we have more options besides Democrat and Republican. I don't think any issue is completely black and white, right or left. We don't have to compromise morals or beliefs to be strict Democrat or Republican."
Remember to head to the polls no matter what you believe on November 8th, and to read the opinions of both left-leaning and right-leaning students, check out Fresh U's coverage of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supporters.
Lead Image Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons