International students voice views on 2016 election

Five international students gathered Thursday to conduct a panel regarding international perspectives on the U.S. presidential elections. The panel was moderated by Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics Director Dan Schnur in King Hall, and featured topics regarding media transparency, the electoral college and the two-party system, among others.

Schnur began the panel by asking the panelists questions about their countries’ perspectives on the presidential candidates and on the election as a whole. Frederik Pruss, a graduate student in the Master of Communication Management program, echoed many German citizens’ fears regarding the U.S. election trends.

“When it comes to content, people are starting to get very scared. Germans see how it’s going and they’re seeing that this year’s election is incredibly American-centric, very stigmatized against refugees and no one talks about the environment — no one seems to care about this very important aspect of the future,” Pruss said. “With people split up to such extreme sides and focusing only on themselves, Germans are afraid for the United States and for the world because the United States is such a global power.”

While Pruss worried about specific issues in the election, Francisco De Assis Magalhaes Paiva De Sousa, a senior majoring in business administration, provided a different perspective from Portugal. De Sousa saw Portugal, his native country, as surprisingly unknowledgeable about the candidates’ policies.

“My understanding is that the Portuguese are uninformed, because I think if they were to vote right now, it would be 80 percent for Hillary and 20 percent for Donald,” de Sousa said. “But if I asked them about issues without giving names, they would side more with Donald Trump’s issues than with Hillary Clinton’s.”

Amrish Ramnarine, a graduate student in the Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production program, concurred with de Sousa about ignorance concerning the election. However, Ramnarine said that Trinidadians aligned themselves with candidates more according to demographics than policy positions.

“All the wealthy businessmen in Trinidad support Trump, because they want to see a businessman in government; most of these businessmen didn’t go to college and are self-learned people,” Ramnarine said. “The businessman logic is that if someone can run a business, he can definitely run a country. But all of the college students are for Hillary.”

Sumin Kim, a sophomore majoring in international relations and the global economy, explained that the most difficult aspect is knowing about the candidates’ platforms, but not knowing how they would implement them in office.

“It’s unclear what the United States is planning to do with the Pacific Rim in the upcoming years, even though we all know that both candidates want stronger trade relationships with Asian countries such as Korea,” Kim said. “In any case, I think that Korea would have to rethink its status in the United States’ Pacific Rim politics, because whoever wins the presidency will try to gain power in Asia by leveraging Japan’s support.”

After the panelists finished answering Schnur’s questions, they opened the floor up to the general audience. Questions and comments involved China, business-government relations and foreigners’ views of the U.S. status quo.

The importance of holding this panel, according to Schnur, was not necessarily to change people’s views about the presidential candidates, but to open people’s minds.

“There’s really some smart people across that divide, and even if you might not be convinced by them, there’s still something they can teach you,” Schnur said. “The only way any democracy functions is when we take the plugs out of our ears to listen to the other person’s music. We may not like it, but it’ll teach us something we otherwise wouldn’t have known.”