HERSHEY, Pa. — Erika Jackson is sick of being told she “doesn’t look like a Trump supporter.”
“People definitely judge me more harshly,” said the 22-year-old recent graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. “Isn’t the whole point that women can speak our own minds? Why is it only OK if it’s liberal, or if we support Hillary?”
If Donald Trump loses Tuesday, it will be in part because he’s losing college-educated, young white women by 27 points, a bloc that Mitt Romney won by 52 percent in 2012.
Yet there are young women who back Trump. And interviews with about two dozen this weekend revealed a range of reasons and resentment that they should be expected to vote one way because of their age and gender. They say the election has celebrated young women and political engagement, but only if “it’s supporting liberal policies and Hillary,” Jackson said.
“The legacy of having a woman president doesn’t need to be Hillary Clinton,” said Amanda Rider, an 19-year-old student from Harrisburg, Pa., interviewed at a Trump rally Friday in Hershey, Pa. “If I’m sexist because I don’t vote for you because you’re a woman, then fine, I’m sexist.”
Young women at Trump’s rally said it was unfair to feel social pressure just for voting their conscience.
“I would absolutely love to have a woman president, just not Hillary Clinton,” said Elisa Seiple, a 28-year-old photographer from Easton, Pa. A mother of two young children, she said abortion was an important issue for her and made for an easy choice between the two candidates.
“It’s simple — she doesn’t share any of the same core values that I share, and I couldn’t support someone like that,” she said.
For Heather Grieves, a 32-year-old business owner from York, Pa., it’s a question of economics.
“Our company taxes have never been higher, and Obamacare forced us into a hiring freeze,” she said. Grieves said she made her choice carefully, and didn’t appreciate being told by some friends and acquaintances that she was “betraying” her gender. “I don’t like this,” she said.
Kaeleigh Green, a 21-year-old student from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, said the election should be about encouraging young women to educate themselves about issues that matter to them. “I agree with him on a lot of his tax policies, a lot of his border policies, and I think he’s the best candidate to lead the country right now,” she said.
Trump’s treatment of and comments about women have been a major problem for his campaign.
Yet when asked about it, many millennial women supporting Trump said they thought it was condescending to be told by others that they should feel automatically offended.
“I actually do get a lot of hate from other women, saying how can you support Trump, you see the things he says,” said Alexa Adler, a 20-year old student at Rowan University in New Jersey. “I don’t understand that. I’m not offended by what he said about women. I think as women we should be very secure in our own skin, and if you are secure in your own skin and if you know you’re beautiful, then words shouldn’t offend you.”
She said Trump was a blunt person who insulted men just as much, with little outcry.
Some of the young women said they felt it better to support Trump quietly lest they alienate friends or colleagues.
Emily Meier, 27, who works at a bank in Allentown, Pa., drove to the rally with a friend on Friday. Unlike most supporters who proudly sported Trump gear from the familiar “Make America Great Again” hats to sparkly U.S. flag jackets with his name, she only wore a Trump/Pence pin on her vest. Standing in a sea of people on the floor of Giant Center, many waving pink “Women for Trump” signs, she turned her face away from a television camera when it spun around to show the crowd.
“It’s just not worth it,” she said. “Yes, I’m voting for Trump, but that’s my business. I do think it’s unfair that just because Hillary gets these celebrities and trendy commercials and concerts and all that it means only those who vote for her get to feel good about it or post on Facebook without being insulted.”