Perspectives on the U.S. Election: a View from Portugal

Biden or Trump? Atlas spoke to those living in Portugal about what the U.S. election means for them.

The Nov. 3 U.S. election is upon us, and on Wednesday — or maybe next week, or maybe later — we’ll learn whether Donald Trump will lead the country for another four years or be replaced by Joe Biden. More than 95 million Americans have voted already, according to the U.S. Elections Project, which could lead to the largest voter turnout in decades. Regardless of the outcome, most pundits agree that the effects of this one will be felt for a loooooong time. 

Illustration by Bogdan Kamuta

Atlas spoke to those living in Portugal, American and otherwise, about what the 2020 election means for them. Without further ado, and without a filter save editing for length, here’s what we’re hearing.

Editor’s note: No, this is not an endorsement, nor is it supposed to be representative of the view of the Portuguese, nor of the expats living here. But by all means, bring the hate, or, you know, share your opinion.

Name: Lena Edvardsen

Age: 26

Nationality: Norwegian

Profession: Actress

For the future, I hope this election will make us think deeper about our values and not discredit democracy. I hope that the American people will find unity and stand together, despite their differences in political views. 

I think it is unfortunate that there are only two parties that are up fighting for power, where the winner takes all. For me, it creates a more nuanced picture of the public’s choice when multiple parties have to cooperate. In this way they are challenged by each other’s opinions and must take different ideas into consideration, which reflects the public’s view. I think it is important for people to have more options to vote from.

I was raised to trust authorities; even if we disagree, there is a trust between us. With America as a superpower in the world we all live in, I hope that trust can be regained. Not only are we allies, but America has such an influence on Western culture, as well as pop culture — I would almost say a representative responsibility. Therefore, I find the result hugely important to how we want to move forward in the world.

I think Biden will win. I cannot imagine that Trump gets re-elected after what we have witnessed the last four years.


Name: Barbara Fontela

Age: 26

Nationality: Spanish

Profession: Communications manager

The 2016 election was a turning point in the direction of trans-Atlantic relations and world politics. However, today we’re distracted with our own trouble at home: coronavirus, economic crisis, and the polarization of our own societies over fundamental issues such as recovery measures, immigration, or EU integration. 

Either result of the U.S. 2020 presidential election will have a strong negative impact; it’s contribution to even more political polarization, media polarization, and public opinion polarization. The more the world becomes apart in two extremes, the more difficult it will be to agree and take fundamental political measures that allow us to progress, especially in times of crisis.


Name: Eduardo Prado Cardoso

Age: 33

Nationality: Brazilian

Profession: Writer and filmmaker

As a Brazilian citizen, I am genuinely apprehensive about the U.S. election, as what Jair Bolsonaro has been putting forward in the past two years, in regard to foreign policies and geopolitics, is heavily influenced by Donald Trump. But of course what’s at stake is an even bigger thing: a global order. The fact that the incumbent North American president plays dirty to justify an eventual loss negates democratic principles, which might end up being questioned in many parts of the world. So of course it is a huge deal if Trump stays or not — any critical individual who has plans for tomorrow should be concerned with it.

Trump’s legacy, also because he used the “outsider” card and had “nothing to lose,” inspires a range of extremists and politicians who rant about the establishment, and prey on political correctness or discourses about minorities. Portugal is not far from this gloomy political reality, repeatedly failing to deal with racial and migration issues that can eventually be used as an election platform. Will there be a “Mexican wall” in Lisbon? Maybe not, but the fear rhetorics about the “other” are dangerously escalating.


Name: Lottie Swift

Age: 27

Nationality: British

Profession: Product manager

I’m glad election time is finally coming around for people in the U.S.; Trump has done nothing but damage, and it needs to end. I feel oddly connected to this election, and desperately don’t want a repeat of 2016. I will be staying up all night to watch it.

The stakes are higher [than the last presidential election]. 2016 felt like a kind of joke, with Trump as a fake candidate. This time we’ve seen the damage one guy can do.

All predictions point to Biden; I think most people have realized Trump cannot run a country. But I made the mistake of assuming before, so I don’t want to get too comfortable.

Like it or not, America has influence. American views on race, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and immigration heavily influence people in Portugal and my home country, the U.K. Right-wing politicians like Chega and Brexiteers would lose credibility if Biden became president, which I would love.


Name: Anonymous

Age: 30

Nationality: Danish

Profession: Business developer

I believe that the current election shows that systemic progress is fragile and that differences in opinion have (and most likely always will) drive destructive behavior — amplified by Donald Trump. I am primarily concerned about the evident and potential impact that this can have on the American democracy — it’s a grand but sincere concern.

I believe this election is in many ways similar to the 2016 election but with a different starting point and power structure. As a result, the differences and divide seem more outspoken. However, I am concerned that the media may primarily give a voice to those with the most extreme opinions.

I do not dare to predict the outcome of the election but would vote Biden if I could. No matter the result, I’m concerned that the current atmosphere can create even deeper gaps in the population and that countries around the world will mirror this development.

I really do hope that people will find a way to better respect and understand each other.


Name: Humberto Dibos

Age: 34

Nationality: Peruvian

Profession: Entrepreneur

The U.S. election is a bad joke which starts with Trump. It confuses me the way North Americans made their election system so complicated so that people’s votes don’t count as much as the votes of other politicians. The voting system is sabotaging the voters, making minorities walk huge distances and wait in incredibly long lines to vote; Black people are almost being pushed out of the voting sites. 

Sadly, the U.S. is filled with racist people led by white supremacy groups that support Trump, buy his speeches, and vote for him. But it’s mostly the corrupt system and his political party that constantly move things their way to try to keep him in the power position. It’s incredible how he has already been proved to be an enormous liar and hasn’t been censored. Any other candidate like Biden is getting votes mostly because people don’t want Trump in power; it’s the antivote.

The problem in the U.S. election of 2020 will be political polarization. Whoever wins will have half of the population against them. This is a big problem across the Americas, where most of the presidents win by little advantage and then have their counterparts sabotaging any kind of development.


Name: José Cardigos Bastos

Age: 57

Nationality: Portuguese

Profession: Painter

In my opinion, the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a watershed event, with potentially far-reaching consequences globally.  As both candidates have mentioned frequently, it is probably the most important election of our time. Given all that is at stake, its outcome is of paramount importance, not only for the U.S. but for the rest of the world as well.

I have been a Trump supporter since he decided to run in the 2016 presidential election. At that time, in my mind and without a doubt, Hillary Clinton represented the worst of what the D.C. political establishment had turned into; a rotten-to-the-core swamp. Quite frankly, I would have supported anyone running against HC, but an outsider, and non-career politician, such as Donald Trump, was the icing on the cake for me. The vicious attacks subsequently perpetrated on Trump by the mainstream media — whom I have currently no respect for, given their obviously biased reporting — only reinforced my opinion that he was the right man for the job.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we can look back on a vast list of promises made, and meanwhile fulfilled, by Trump. To name but a few: we saw the U.S. withdrawing from endless wars, a boom in the U.S. economy, millions of jobs created, peace deals brokered in the Middle East and Kosovo, and, last but not least, the administration’s extraordinary results in combating human trafficking and pedophile rings. All this during his first term in office, while facing impeachment, an extremely hostile press, and a coronavirus pandemic.

In my opinion, the U.S. badly needed this breath of fresh air, both domestically and on the international scene. The world needs an America that is prosperous, that stands up for individual rights and liberties, and that is also a powerful player (in a good way) on a global level. I firmly believe that Donald Trump’s track record so far speaks for itself and that he thoroughly deserves a second term in office. If the best that the Democrats can field against him is Joe Biden, another perfect example of the aforementioned swamp, they thoroughly deserve a crushing defeat.


Name: Gloria Dominguez

Age: 33

Nationality: American

Profession: Freelance writer

I approach this coming election day with hope and optimism (it appears I have yet to learn the lessons from 2016). These past four years have been marked with an internal struggle of being confronted by one mind-boggling act of disregard for basic civility, U.S. law, and international agreements after the other. The American public and the global community as a whole has become accustomed to hearing the man in the Oval Office regurgitate falsehood after falsehood. There appears to have been a common consensus that this man and his political lackeys have led us down a path on which reason and logical thought is abandoned. Fact-checking became irrelevant because whoever shouted the loudest created their own groundless narrative, and it was accepted.

The reach of Trump’s hand has proven to be wider than we had dreaded it could be. We’ve seen it through the innumerous instances of environmental protection deregulation; his complete disregard for the science behind climate change; his countless lifetime appointments to the federal courts; his three appointees to the Supreme Court; his plundering of countless foreign diplomatic relations; his adoption of family separation policy at the country’s southern border; and countless other acts too plentiful to list in one place.

It has become clear that undoing his mess will take years if not decades. And it is with this in mind and my inherent college freshman idealism — which I can’t seem to shake — that I view this coming election as the sharp-turn detour from the path the country has begrudgingly been led down for the past four years. I am hopeful for a Biden/Harris victory, not because I believe them the best choice, but because they represent a nation’s rejection of lies and divisions.

I’m also hopeful for the increased involvement of voters in this election; with the 92 million plus ballots already cast three days before the election, one cannot help but predict that there is magic in the air. This large voter turnout along with increased rates of young voters and people of color coming out makes me believe the tide is about to turn.


Name: Melissa Haun

Age: 25

Nationality: American

Profession: Freelance writer

I moved from the U.S. to Europe one month before Donald Trump was elected. The timing felt convenient, but maybe it’s more than a coincidence that I’ve chosen to stay.

The result of this election won’t change whether I decide to go back (I won’t) but it does have the potential to give me a small spark of hope. Not the kind of hope I had when Obama was elected — a Biden victory will feel less like a leap forward, and more like a small step back toward level ground. Above all, I’ll be relieved.

If Trump wins, on the other hand, I don’t know if I’ll be able to reconcile my experience of growing up in the U.S. with what it has become. Like most Americans, I grew up believing my country was “special.” This idea of exceptionalism is deeply ingrained in me, even though I don’t consciously believe it. But the past four years have chipped away at any claim of American superiority, and for me, pride as well.

As an American living abroad, the result of this election will affect how the people around me perceive me. It will affect my identity in the eyes of others, but also my own personal sense of place. I don’t want another four years of apologies and incredulity when anyone brings up American politics.

This election is symbolic because it gives Americans the opportunity to try again — almost a chance at redemption (although of course it’s not that simple). And I really hope they (or rather, we) take it.

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