Michigan State University

Michigan State University journalism students tell NQ why this presidential election is like no other

  • Michigan State University invited NQ reporters to their journalism class on the eve of the presidential election
  • Tensions are high in this swing state with some citizens even preparing for election night violence 
  • Michigan students describe the challenge of covering a highly polarised election fairly
  • Follow the election LIVE here on NQ
Zoom meeting with Michigan State University journalism students
NQ reporters join MSU journalism class via Zoom

On the eve of polling day in the US presidential election, the atmosphere in the swing state of Michigan is tense and distrustful, according to the Michigan State University (MSU) students.

MSU journalism student, Nathan Stearns, said: “You could cut the tension with a knife. You can feel the hatred on both sides. If you vote for Trump you’re a white supremacist and a member of the KKK, and if you vote for Biden you’re a democratic socialist who wants to turn us into Venezuela.

“It’s almost like a war, you can feel the seams that make up the country tearing apart.”

The other students echoed that sentiment, and said they were bracing themselves for what they believed to be the inevitable violence to come on election night, as well as the looting and rioting to follow.

Joey Elenbaas said: “If you think about the police violence that we’ve had in this country, and you add to that the tension that creates with the virus, and then you have two candidates that are battling it out so intensely. So those three things have created a perfect storm.”

Another journalism student, Brea Crawford, is focusing her election coverage on the Black Lives Matter movement. She said she and her peers have been experiencing increased racism in their daily lives as November 3rd approaches: “With the amount of subliminal racism we are experiencing from co-workers to even random strangers in the store, people’s true colours are starting to really show.

“Right now, everyone’s looking at this like it’s minority versus superiority. I don’t want to say it’s black vs. white but at the same time, that’s the tension we’re feeling right now. Everybody is looking at each other sideways like: Who’s supporting who, who can I trust?”

As part of their coursework, the MSU students are working on articles about the election. One of the requirements is to ask for the personal information of the people they interview in order to keep track of voter demographics, including, race, gender identity, and how they are voting.

The students said they are finding it challenging to interview voters about their views on the election as some people fear their job could be in jeopardy if they share their political opinion.

Nathan said: “It’s a social norm that you don’t want to poke with a ten-foot pole. The hardest part, at least for me, is how to phrase these things because you never know what is going to send them off. I’ve gotten yelled at by a couple people.”

Molly Gundry, who majored in political science, said: “It’s gotten to the point where people aren’t even voting for the candidates, but they’re voting for their party, so it doesn’t even matter if their views line up.”

NQ’s LIVE coverage of the election begins at 23:30 Tuesday night. 

Due to the high number of absentee ballots cast, the votes for Michigan will not be fully counted until Friday 6 November.