The University of Michigan has received a fair amount of attention from the Democratic party this election season, with visits from Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.). However, there have been no surrogate or candidate visits from any other party.
The greater presence of Democratic campaigns may have a simple explanation — the high levels of support they find here. 70 percent of students sampled backed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in a recent Michigan Daily election survey.
Additionally, the University’s chapter of College Democrats, Students for Hillary and the Michigan branch of the Hillary for America campaign all have active ongoing efforts on campus. Prior to the deadline earlier in October, the groups focused on voter registration, often working together on drives. Now they will begin switching gears to get out the vote efforts.
However, those have very little to do with attracting candidates or surrogate visits, and only coordinate after a visit is announced.
“It’s a very formalized process that is mostly done through the campaign,” said LSA senior Lauren Gallagher, Students for Hillary president.
Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president of government relations at the University, said the student enthusiasm for the electoral process on campus has contributed to the visits so far.
“The reputation of the University of Michigan as an energetic campus with students who are very well-informed and eager to participate is a well-known characteristic,” she said. “And as a result it is no surprise that this campus is one where candidates find themselves.”
Despite polling at 42 percent nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump receives very little support on campus with the most recent Michigan Daily survey showing him at 12.1 percent approval among students. Despite his poor performance, however, the University’s chapter of College Republicans retains its support for Trump and remains fairly active on campus.
Throughout the semester, the group has hosted debate watch parties and contributed to voter registration efforts across campus. However, this has not resulted in a major candidate or surrogate visit.
College Republicans President Enrique Zalamea, an LSA junior, wrote in an email interview with the Daily he is not surprised Trump has not hosted events on campus, but noted his organization has been involved with local campaigns and been invited to Trump events in the state.
“I assume Trump and Pence not visiting Ann Arbor is a strategic decision to focus on more conservative parts of Michigan, such as during Trump’s rally in Novi Michigan, and Pence’s Lincoln Day Dinner in McComb county; both of which (College Republicans) members were given admission to,” he wrote.
Traditionally, Trump prefers to hold rallies in large venues and has bragged about his ability to draw large crowds in comparison to Clinton. In his most recent visit to the state in Novi, he filled the Suburban Collection Showplace with approximately 1,000 people. Given his low support on campus, hosting a rally here might not result in his normal audience size. Nationally, while Trump retains a minority of support group among college students, he has also been met with protests at a portion of the few campuses he has visited.
Wilbanks said the Trump campaign has thus far not been in contact with the University.
“From the position of being helpful of all candidates, I would say we have only heard from Secretary Clinton’s campaign team,” she said. “We have not had any specific outreach through my office from Mr. Trump’s team. Maybe there will be outreach for that type of activity, but so far that has not been the case.”
The lack of visits may also be due to different policy emphases. Clinton has repeatedly touted her higher education reform plan, which includes collaboration with Sanders and has resulted in tuition-free college for families who earn less than $125,000, a very popular notion among students. Trump, on the other hand, has not released a detailed plan relating to higher education.
Looking outside of the two major parties, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has received a fair amount of support on campus, with the most recent Michigan Daily survey showing him at 11.7 percent.
However, there is no formal support group for Johnson on campus, and nor has their been any interaction from his campaign.
Johnson has received limited attention throughout the election season, some of it for blunders. Johnson has campaigned at a few college campuses including a speech at Liberty University’s convocation and nearby Purdue University.
Comparatively, when Johnson ran in 2012, he embarked on an ambitious college tour across the country.
Nationally, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein has also gained the support of some young people, and has identified student support as an important part of her base. On the University’s campus, however, support hasn’t been very visible, and she polled at 3 percent in the Daily poll.
Stein has spent a fair amount of time campaigning at college campuses with a college tour in Maine and various other university stops, including an upcoming event this Friday at Eastern Michigan University.
Eric Borregard, Green Party candidate for state representative, told the Daily in a September interview that his party has seen an increase in support from young people in this election.
“I think it is decidedly younger this year than it ever has been because of the infusion of Bernie Sanders people,” he said.