In the lead up to the 2016 election, I interviewed three couples who were going their separate ways in the voting booth. In each scenario, she was voting for Hillary Clinton, and he was not—a microcosm of the divide felt across the nation.
Now in 2020, the presidential election has only taken on more weight, occurring smack dab in the middle of a public health and economic crisis. Naturally, that divide has only deepened. In these past four years, there have been countless articles about how to talk to your relatives about politics at the dinner table and musings about whether those with varying political views can build a long-lasting, modern relationship. It’s all made me wonder: Those duos who voted differently, how are they feeling now?
Below, ELLE.com talked to three (different) couples to find out:
Liz, 26 & Tim, 26
In 2016, Tim voted for third party candidate Gary Johnson and Liz voted for Hillary Clinton. This year, they’re both voting for Joe Biden. They’ve been together since January 2014.
“I’m registered as a Democrat, and it was pretty clear who I was going to vote for in 2016. Trump is such a polarizing, misogynistic, racist figure, so whether it was Hillary Clinton or someone else, that wasn’t going to change my mind.
I wrote a text message letter to Tim about why he should vote for Hillary. A huge part of it was that Trump was not the person to lead our country. He had shown that in the way that he was campaigning and the way that he was talking about other candidates. I felt that a vote for a third party candidate would be a vote for Trump. I remember Tim wouldn’t tell me if he was going to vote for Hillary or not because I think he didn’t want to upset me.
There was definitely a little bit of tension back when we would talk about politics because I remember a point where I was like, I’m not going to talk to you about politics because we just don’t agree on certain things. I was upset that I couldn’t persuade him, and I felt like we were in a crucial situation. I was visiting Pittsburgh a lot at that time, driving across Pennsylvania, and it felt pretty clear to me that there was much more Trump support than it seemed like in the media.
But we agree in the fact that we both do not like Trump as president. It makes me happy because I feel like Tim has really listened to my view on certain issues and he’s willing to learn. Even if he decided to support a third party candidate this time, at least he seems more open to hearing my perspective. I’m really glad he’s voting for Biden because I think that’s the best possible choice in this situation.”
“I’m a registered Republican, but I ended up voting for Gary Johnson in 2016. As a person I thought he seemed like a good guy; he wasn’t polarizing like the two main party candidates. I wanted to vote for someone I trusted and who I felt good about, and I didn’t feel that with either of those two candidates. However, I did think that Hillary would win and mine would be a throwaway vote. When she didn’t win, I had an initial feeling of dread. I was hoping that Trump would not be the person he was during the campaign, but it didn’t change.
I consider myself socially liberal and fiscally conservative, but I feel like with the current presidency, the social issues make me have a distaste for the Republican Party. During the campaign, the party at large said Trump doesn’t reflect us and we don’t support him. Then he was the Republican candidate, and the party just kowtowed to him. It was spineless how he was backed.
Politically, I don’t think Liz and I are all that different. Since that election, the more we’ve talked, we’ve each given each other a different perspective, and I think that helps. Sometimes Liz will put on left-wing political podcasts, like Pod Save America. Initially, I didn’t agree with what they were saying, but through listening more, I’ve learned and taken things away. I’ve been trying to better understand how Trump’s rhetoric and policies affect people who aren’t like me.
The main thing that’s driving me to vote for Biden is the way these past four years have gone. I never have and never will support Trump, but if things had not gone badly during his presidency, if there was a third party candidate I felt strongly for, I would consider voting for them. But the alternative to Biden not winning would be another four years of Trump, and I don’t want that again.”
Morgan, 38 & Andrew, 39
In 2016, Andrew voted for Donald Trump and Morgan voted for Hillary Clinton. This year, he’s deciding whether he’ll support Trump again or choose not to vote, while she’s voting for Biden. They’ve been together since January 2003.
“I’ve never been a straight party-line voter. I have strong beliefs on both sides of the aisle, and I go into almost all elections with the mindset of learning everything I can. For the 2016 election, I paid close attention to both parties’ nominations and thought there were better options from the Republican crowd. I’m not going to say all of my feelings on our current president, but I felt that he lacked the grace and respect for the office.
Have Andrew and I talked about politics more because of the Trump administration? Absolutely. I think it’s access to the information and the fact that both parties are extremely polarizing. I am a firm believer that there’s quite a divide in the country right now and the Democrats are just as guilty as the Republicans are.
There are definitely issues we can agree on, but certain topics can get extremely heated. I’m a feminist, and when it comes to women’s issues, I can be pretty close-minded to the other side. I’m passionate about a lot of social issues, and I’m really only going to bring up a topic if I have strong feelings about it. We try to be as peaceful as possible though. I think it’s important to try to hear the other person and understand where they’re coming from. We both can respect why somebody has a different view than us.
When it comes to Trump, I’ll say to Andrew, ‘Oh my gosh, did you see what he said today?’ He has the ability to say, ‘It’s not necessarily about that ridiculous thing he said, it’s about the big picture and what actually happens.’
Right now, I identify more with Biden. For the first time in my life, I would rather Andrew not vote than vote for Trump. I would rather there be just one less vote for Trump.”
“I’m a straight party voter, so my decision is, ‘Do I vote for the Republican candidate, or do I not vote?’ The primaries are a lot more complicated for me.
I contemplated not voting in 2016, but at the end of the day, I made the decision to vote for the Republican Party. You want as many folks on your side, in Congress and in the executive branch, as you can get. That’s how politics works now. There’s not as much working across the aisle. You just want numbers.
We don’t talk about politics very much as a couple because it tends to not be a productive conversation. Morgan gets very emotional about it and directs a lot of anger from things she sees in the media toward me. We tend not to have balanced, calm discussions about this stuff, and if you can’t, then it’s not worth talking about.
This year, my thought process is similar to 2016. There’s a possibility I don’t vote. We’ll see how the next month shakes out. I didn’t make a decision in 2016 until maybe a day or two before the election. I’ll probably do the same thing this year. But if I had to vote today, I’d vote for Trump. My view is this thing is game over. Everybody thought that in 2016 as well, but I’m fully expecting a Biden presidency. I think Trump’s done some damage with voters, and I don’t really see a path for him.
It doesn’t bother me how Morgan votes this year. I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it. I fully support people that want to go in a different direction. It doesn’t affect me or our relationship.”
Maria, 25 & Joe, 26
Joe did not cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election, and Maria voted for Hillary Clinton. This time around, they’ll both be voting for Biden. Maria and Joe have been together since July 2017.
“For me, it wasn’t really a question of who to vote for. I don’t want to say I’m a one-issue voter, but when it comes to women’s rights and women having the rights over their own bodies, that’s pretty important to me. Especially when the video came out with Trump saying, ‘Grab them by the pussy,’ it was clear this is a person who doesn’t care about the other gender or other people in general. I was also voting in Pennsylvania and knew that it was important for me to vote because it’s a swing state.
We talk about politics a lot, and I was pretty mad at Joe for not voting. I do think it’s hard for young people because we move around a lot. You have to constantly register in a new state and figure out, ‘Am I going to be here longterm or should my parent’s home be where my permanent address is?’ Then ask to request an absentee ballot. I understand why a lot of people in their early twenties don’t vote because it’s so difficult to figure out the whole process.
For this election, I strongly supported Bernie [Sanders]. Right now, a lot of our systems are not working for the people. I really thought we needed someone who is progressive, who wants to change things. I think that a lot of voters in 2016 elected Trump because they wanted change, so maybe if we had someone who would do a very different type of change, that would get a lot of people motivated. But I’ll settle for Biden.”
“I think I didn’t vote because I assumed it was fine. I wasn’t really too savvy on the residency laws, and I had just graduated. I’m from New Jersey, but then I lived in New York. I wasn’t sure where I technically lived or how to register for the right place, plus New Jersey and New York are usually pretty blue. I figured, Oh, this is going to be a landslide. I don’t even need to vote. It’s not really going to matter for me.
After Trump won, I thought, probably should have done my civic duty and voted. I didn’t anticipate what was going to transpire in the administration to come, and I would have voted for Hillary.
I kind of always felt like Biden was probably the strongest to do well in the election, the safe pick. I have to request my absentee ballot for this year. Again, where I’ll be voting is pretty blue. When you’re in a state that’s overwhelmingly one direction, you don’t really care as much. There’s less of a sense of urgency. But I want to get my vote on the record. Everyone’s trying to get out the vote, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite.
As a couple, we talk about politics a lot just because it’s more relevant. During the Obama administration, there wasn’t a new political saga every day. Now, you’re just trying to keep track.”
These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity. Some names have been changed at the request of the participants.
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