Despite frontrunner status, Trump lacks support on campus

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Government freshman Nicholas Pierce supports Donald Trump for president. Pierce said Trump spoke to specific issues of concern to him. Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

If you ask Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, he says he gets along with everybody.

“People love me, and I’ve been very successful,” Trump told Anderson Cooper during an interview on CNN.

However, when College Republicans Communications Director Robert Guerra asked if anyone supported Trump at a UT College Republicans meeting last Tuesday, no one raised their hands, citing concerns about Trump’s comments about Muslims and his ability to unify the American electorate.

“I don’t think the support we’ve seen Trump get is reflective of the college student demographic,” Guerra, a finance junior, said. “The reasons for that is the issues he chooses to focus on and advocate for, by and large, are not the issues that students care about and support.”

However, the students on campus who support Trump may disagree. All students interviewed cited Trump’s stance on immigration — to build a wall along the Mexican border — as a common factor for supporting Trump. They also said his “refreshing” approach to politics stood in contrast to other candidates’ “staged” speeches. 

“As a conservative person, I’ve been betrayed by the Republican establishment,” said Nicholas Pierce, government freshman and Trump supporter. “When Trump entered the race, he spoke specifically to issues that I have been worried about.” 

Regan Staudt, radio-television-film senior and Trump supporter, said Trump’s record of success as a businessman, his outspoken nature and strong stance on immigration would make him a successful president. 

“I’m a news freak, and I watch the candidates everyday,” Staudt said. “During his debates, he doesn’t read off the teleprompter and he says what is on his mind.” 

Staudt said she didn’t have any reservations about Trump’s candidacy. However, when asked about Donald’s Trump slow move to distance himself from the support of white nationalist and ex-Ku Klux Klan Klansman David Duke, Staudt declined to comment. 

Despite Trump’s sizable lead in the Republican primary, he hasn’t gained much traction on campus, according to Emily Hickey, president of the UT chapter of Students for Donald Trump. The group hasn’t held any activities or events on campus, she said. The group has 11 members, according to their Facebook page. 

“The city of Austin as well as the University of Texas at Austin are challenging arenas for Trump supporters and that’s no secret,” Hickey wrote in an email. 

Trump also seems to have less support among young people statewide. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, Trump received 19 percent of the youth vote in the Texas Super Tuesday primary, compared to 33 percent for Sen. Ted Cruz. Marketing professor Julie Irwin, who has studied Trump’s appeal, said even less people support Trump who attend college. 

Staudt said she is “afraid” to tell people she is a Trump supporter and fears her professors would fail her if she publicly stated her support for his candidacy. Contrary to popular belief, she said, Trump supporters aren’t “racist” when they support increased border control.

“I can’t tell people. No one wants to hear it,” Staudt said. “I think people are really quick to judge him. They haven’t taken the time to watch him on TV or have an open mind about him.”

Despite Trump’s rhetoric, which is viewed by many as divisive, Pierce said Trump will be able to unite the American people to beat the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I think the contrasting personalities will work in his favor,” Pierce said. “I think that he’s going to show off a lot of more strength and possibly a lot more vigor to his campaign. Inflammatory language comes with large issues that the establishment tries to ignore.”