Stories from the US campaign trail: 'We learned why so many Americans are desperate for change'

3rd November 2016 at 15:57
US presidential elections
In our third instalment from the US campaign trail, UK sixth-formers taking part in the campaigning say they've gained a deeper understanding of the factors that affect voter decisions

As the final stages of the US presidential race get underway, 20 sixth-formers from five UK schools have joined campaigners for Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and a number of the Republican congressional races. The students are part of the Inspire US 2016 programme, run by education charity The Transformation Trust, which offers opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them develop new employability skills and grow in confidence. TES will carry a report each day from the students.

Reporting from Florida are Naomi Mostafiz, Ellie Watson, Berkem's Billuroglu and Chardonnae Deslandes, sixth-form students at Kingsmead School in Enfield​, North London

As election day grows closer and closer, our knowledge and experience is rapidly expanding, allowing us to understand the political decisions undertaken by the American people and, most importantly, the reasoning behind them.

By day five here in Tampa, Florida, we have not only become acclimatised to the 30C heat and sunshine, but also to the current political climate in this key swing state.

We have been developing our campaigning skills through directly interacting with the public and improving our debating techniques through evening inter-school debates regarding key controversial issues such as gun control, healthcare and foreign policy.

Having been trained by expert campaigners to use state-of-the art technology, we’ve been able to target thousands and thousands of voters in a matter of hours. Not only did this help the campaign itself, but it also gave us our first insight into the importance of every single voter interaction.

In a system so different to the UK’s, it was fascinating to get our first real idea of the current political atmosphere.

However, our learning didn’t stop there. Through such interactions we were able to gain an understanding of factors that affect voter decisions; concepts we would not be able to fully comprehend had we not been here to experience them first-hand.

The backlash against 'corruption'

For example, after speaking to numerous Republican voters we were able to grasp the idea that so many of the American people are desperate for change, even if it means a complete overhaul of the political system in an effort to eradicate "corruption".

Our learning experience was not restricted to the campaign offices. We were given the opportunity to interact with the voters face-to-face rather than over the phone by visiting key areas of Tampa.

Through this method of targeted door-knocking, we were able speak with the most crucial voters whose decisions could define the final outcome.

While our interactions with members of the public were brief, the discussions on their doorsteps allowed us to hear many opposing political viewpoints expressed with immense passion.

We were fortunate enough to meet with some political science students on internships, and we were able to empathise with their journey into politics. Being at a similar age and stage of education, these people had a great impact on all of us and enabled us to realise that there is a wider demographic unbeknown to us. For example, refugees and immigrants, now full American citizens, whose prior experiences have shaped their political views massively.

Although we have only been in Tampa for four days, our efforts have made a significant impact on the campaigns – just as the American political opinions that we've encountered so far have had a major impact on us.

Read more blogs from the Inspire US team here.

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