In a normal election year, it’s easy to lump voters into clean categories: Republicans vote for the Republican candidate, Democrats support the Democratic candidate and undecided voters waver between the two until Election Day.
But this is no ordinary election.
The candidates from both parties have the lowest approval ratings in modern history. Republicans remain divided over the nomination of Donald Trump, with many lifelong party devotees vowing support for his opponent. Some Democrats are still sore after their own bruising primary, which culminated with the resignation of the party chairwoman after leaked emails exposed a preference for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. And perhaps most of all, voters from both parties say they feel their voices aren’t heard in Washington.
These were the concerns and frustrations we heard when CNN embarked on a journey across the country during the height of general election campaign. From New York to Nevada, CNN reporters traveled with a camper retrofitted to give voters a chance to speak their minds through social media and post their thoughts about the election.
For a month, we just listened.
On the trip, we encountered thousands of voters who shared diverse opinions about this election, the nation, and their role in shaping it. We met Black Lives Matter demonstrators in New York who are pessimistic that change will come from either candidate, but remain steadfast in their cause. We spoke to undecided voters in North Carolina who are struggling with whether they can stomach voting for either candidate. In Pennsylvania, we rode down Highway 81 in a big-rig that had been transformed into a massive pro-Trump mobile billboard by a supporter who believes so strongly in his candidate that he set up a volunteer office to make calls day and night. In Arizona we followed ranchers who live on the US-Mexico border and feel as though Washington has abandoned them. In deep red Tennessee a man named Davy Crockett who suffers from multiple sclerosis described what it was like hearing Trump mock people with disabilities. And we interviewed families from St. Louis’ north side who are hopeful that Clinton’s education reforms would help lift their community.
There were many more, but below are just some of the American voters we met along the way.
Which best represents you on Election Day? Let us know with the #myvote hashtag on social media.
Cassandra Jones, North Carolina
“I’ve never seen an election time when we’ve had so polar opposite candidates where I can’t decide which is the lesser of two evils. That’s very frustrating for me.”
Lee Edsall, North Carolina
“This is the first time I’ve had trouble deciding. I’m genuinely undecided still. The job is just way too important. It literally could be the end of the world if you get somebody who’s likely to fire off nuclear weapons at 3 in the morning. For me, Donald Trump is a no-go. Hillary Clinton is certainly very well-qualified. I just have some concerns and reservations about some of her positions. So for me it’s going to boil down to, are those reservations enough that I would write in another candidate or in the end, am I comfortable enough to choose her?”
Gabriella Johns, New York
“We’re going to need a savior. We’re going to need somebody to help us. Because I’m scared. I’m really scared for what’s going to happen next. I’m not really expecting a lot from the two candidates. But I’m hoping something gets done. I just want change. …I’m personally voting for Hillary, but I think that me voting for her, I’m just settling. Because I don’t want to vote for someone like Donald Trump.”
THE FED UP TRUMP SUPPORTERS
Peggy Davis, Arizona
“I’m getting to where I think Congress is a bunch of elitist snobs who look down their nose at us and tell everybody how un-educated we are. We’re deplorable, irredeemable, red necks, pretty long list. I don’t care what they call me. We are so sick of establishment politicians. So tired of Washington telling us they’ll do something and they don’t. We feel like we’ve been just completely left to fend for ourselves down here. It was refreshing to me to finally have somebody step up and have the nerve to say we’ve got to stop this. This is a sovereign nation and it’s going to be gone if we don’t do something to stop it.”
Debbie Merrigan, Pennsylvania
“I worry. I worry a lot. You have people in America here who can’t get what they want. They have to work for things. It’s tough. People come here and they get things for nothing, and we’re here in America, we’ve got poverty out here. People trying to get things and they can’t. You have people who are going for food stamps, and our Americans can’t get it. We have people moving in from other countries that are able to get it; it’s not fair to the American people. And I think hopefully things will change.”
Bob Bolus, Pennsylvania
“One of the first things that I ever heard Trump say was, ‘I don’t have time to be politically correct because America doesn’t have time to be politically correct.’ I agree with that. Stop worrying about offending everyone. Say what’s need to be said and do what’s need to be done.
“He means what he says and he says what he means and – he’s just not a politician that you can buy off.”
John Ladd, Arizona
“There’s nothing I dislike about Trump. He has some abrasive qualities. We’re all big people now, so get over it.”
WITH HER ALL THE WAY
Al James, Missouri
“I am going to vote for Hillary. She has education on her mind for helping the youth, and what she’s trying to propose, that will help the country. I don’t trust Donald Trump to save my life. He’s not the guy to lead this country anywhere.”
Victoria Kusy, Scranton, Pennsylvania
“I support Hillary. I think it’s really sad the things he’s said about women. Hillary Clinton’s ads aren’t anything she’s said. It’s all quotes from him. It’s 2016 and we’re all trying so hard to get away from that and I think he would bring us so far backwards. When you say a Trump presidency, I just think it’s scary.”