First, let me say that my observations are just that, observations. As an academic who teaches sampling procedures, I will be the first to admit that my thoughts are not the result of any rigorous data collection process. But, I have formed impressions of how some Europeans view our presidential election after a this semester abroad.
News Travels Fast
While news and conversation in the United States center around the election, this is not the case in the European countries I have visited. The U.S. election coverage generally has been found several pages back in the paper.
Brexit and its impact on the European Union, immigration, and each country's own politics and elections dominate the news here — as they should. However, the Access Hollywood tapes of Donald Trump and Billy Bush did prompt tremendous amount of coverage, often with bemusement of the events unfolding. My wife, Joanne, asked the person at the front desk of our hotel to translate the caption of a picture in the paper. The individual just gave an uncomfortable giggle, blushed, and could not give her a reasonable translation. On a sidenote, a real plus for being in Europe right now: no television campaign ads!
We’re Globally Connected
There is a real difference in how people in the various countries approach Joanne and I about the election. In Great Britain, everyone was willing and eager to talk about the election. Right after asking where we wanted to go, a cab driver – any cab driver – wanted to know what we thought about the election. Often before we could say anything, they gave us their opinion.
But opinions were not the sole province of cab drivers. While standing on the first tee at a golf course in Scotland, an individual came up to me and offered his unsolicited assessment of the election. In Gothenburg, Sweden, while most people did not mention the election, the few who did were amused. One individual giving us a tour pointed out the remains of a wall built around the city. She believed it was built to keep out foreigners — the Danes.
In Prague, people have been very reserved about discussing the election. When they finally get around to bringing it up, they are very serious and concerned about what the election outcome could mean to Europe.
It appears to me that people are interested, even if they do not openly bring up the topic, and they do have questions. I recently gave two lectures at the University of Economics in Prague. The students wanted to talk about the election. Their questions showed that they were quite interested about the election but had trouble understanding the subtleties of American politics.
For example, one student indicated that they had read that small business owners were favorable to Trump, but presidents of large corporations were inclined to support Hillary Clinton. Without getting into whether this was true or not, I tried to explain that the split might lie in a difference between Main Street and Wall Street. The idea of Main Street, however, was lost on them and took a fair amount of time to explain.
In addition, some of the topics in our elections are lost on them because it is not part of their psyche. The students just didn’t understand the issues of guns and the notion that someone could have a gun in the classroom was beyond their understanding.
Voting Day Came Early
Finally, Americans here are interested in the election. Joanne and I had the opportunity to go to an event hosted by U.S. Ambassador Andrew Schapiro. To encourage voting for citizens outside the U.S., he hosted a nonpartisan event to allow people to register to vote, request a ballot, or in our case, turn in our ballots. Joanne and I had already requested and received our ballots. We were assured that our ballots would go out in a diplomatic pouch and be back in the States in no time.
The turnout was impressively large, and the event was well received. People congratulated the Ambassador for helping them in this not-so-easy task. Joanne met one woman who was 82 years old and eager to participate. Since we were at the ambassador’s home when we voted, we actually voted on American soil in Prague. What an experience.
Debate Day Coverage
With the debate starting at 3 a.m. in my time zone, I watched the coverage before and after rather than the debate itself. The BBC coverage had several pre-debate stories about Las Vegas and the debate. Commentary after the debate centered on how it will be remembered because of the tone and the question of acceptance of the election outcome. Several people we ran into the day afterwards, asked us where we were from; when we said Las Vegas, they brought up the debate. We also noted the position of a BBC reporter in front of the UNLV sign at the Thomas & Mack Center. So, I can attest to the fact that UNLV received worldwide exposure.