US Election 2016

US election: Talking politics with Trump supporters at 30,000 feet

Plane taking off Image copyright iStock

If the passengers on the first three rows of economy on Flight 416 to Las Vegas had their way, Donald Trump would be president. Even at 30,000 feet, it's hard to escape talking about this election.

I first noticed Lois when she smiled at me across the aisle.

When I told her I was on my way to cover the third and final presidential debate, she stopped playing a game of sudoku on her iPad and leaned over to talk to me.

"Make sure you're fair to them all," she said, before informing me she was voting for Donald Trump.

Many of Mr Trump's supporters have a deep mistrust of the media.

"I've got two degrees. I'm highly educated," she said passionately. "We're not deplorables like Hillary Clinton thinks we are."

Like many Trump supporters, Lois favours The Donald because he is a businessman, a non-politician, a breath of fresh air.

"He can be a bit of a loose cannon but I trust what he says, I think he's honest," she said.

Lois also has a visceral dislike of Hillary Clinton. At the mention of the Democratic nominee's name, her husband Jim, who was seated beside her, stopped working on his laptop to join our conversation.

Image caption Lois, her husband Jim are voting for Trump; Hillary (right), from Utah, says she's not sure, but definitely won't mark her ballot for Trump

"She hasn't driven a car for more than 20 years, she's so out of touch," said Jim of Secretary Clinton. "I don't think she has a moral compass," he added.

Jim is a doctor, who has been practicing medicine for 32 years. He was on his way to Vegas, from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a work conference, with Lois in tow.

"You know I voted for Obama," he told me as he took his glasses off and looked me in the eye. "I used to be a Democrat".

But Jim's faith in Barack Obama evaporated during his first term in office.

"I thought he'd bridge the gap between the races. As a black president, he had a mandate to heal racial divides.

"I voted against him the second time because he lies," Jim continued. "I like Trump because I don't trust Hillary. Her email is bothering me, Benghazi is bothering me… she's really vague about herself".

Image caption Guy says he believes Trump can offer a better future for his adult children

It was at this mention of Secretary Clinton, that a man two seats to my right stirred from his slouched position against the window and sat upright to get my attention.

"I have a severe disdain for Hillary Clinton too, and the inside politics she's been involved in for years," said the man in a grey baseball hoodie. "The Democrats are letting the country down," he told me.

His name was Guy, and he was on his way home to Las Vegas. Guy retired to America's Sin City a few years ago, after spending 35 years in the state of Maryland as a plumbing contractor.

"The air is warmer, and it's better for my arthritis," he said of his move West.

Guy has three college-educated children in their 30s, and believes Donald Trump can offer them a better future. His twin sons in Texas both work part time, but can't get proper jobs.

As the drinks service passed, a lady with blonde hair and black rimmed glasses who was sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder.

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Media captionUS election: What exactly is Clinton's email saga about?

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Betsey was an artist from Delaware, on her way to Vegas to visit her son and granddaughter. She'd been listening to our conversation and had something to say.

"I'm going to vote for Trump because I don't feel like I have another choice."

"If I could vote for the third party guy I would, but it might help her, and I don't want to help her. I think her views are way too far left for me."

Across the aisle Lois nodded vigorously in agreement. As the flight attendant moved through the aisle to collect empty cups, Lois and Betsey struck up their own conversation.

They soon discovered they have the same star sign, Gemini, and that both recently bought guns to protect themselves.

"I bought a 9mm and got a permit to carry a year and a half ago, right after Ferguson there were a lot of gangs going about beating people up," explained Lois.

"My son was beaten up years ago," said Betsey. "Thank goodness I bought a gun".

Lois is scared that if Hillary Clinton wins, her second amendment right to bear arms will be taken away.

"I couldn't kill an ant," joked Betsey, who got her weapon 14 months ago. "But I could kill a man if my life was threatened."

Next to Jim and Lois was a woman in her twenties named Hillary. She had her headphones on for most of the flight, but as our conversation became more animated, Jim turned to ask her what she thought of the election.

"I think Trump is absolutely awful," she said, "I'm more scared of having him in office, because of how loose of a cannon he is," she told me.

Hillary was from Utah, and travelling through Vegas for a connecting flight back.

"I have my ballot, at home," she said. "It's a tough decision. I don't know who to vote for. I'm not going to vote for Trump."

Of the eight passengers I was sitting with, only one, a man named Justin in the row behind me, said he'd definitely vote for Hillary Clinton.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Clinton campaigns in Las Vegas in early November

Justin was flying though Las Vegas on a journey of the heart. He was on his way to Tuscon, Arizona to start a new life with his girlfriend there.

"Hillary Clinton wasn't my first choice, but she's the choice I'm going to make," he told me, as he praised the Democratic nominee's experience.

"In terms of diplomacy, I trust her."

Justin was a Bernie supporter, and believes Donald Trump represents a mindset that promotes fear and division.

"Yeah! There's two of us," cheered Hillary from across the aisle.

Trevor, who was sitting next to Justin, was still undecided. A military veteran, who usually votes Republican, he supported John Kasich in the primaries and isn't sold on Donald Trump. "I don't think he has a filter - and that is a problem."

A grandmother sitting next to me spent most of the flight pretending to ignore the lively political chatter going on around her. But as the flight neared its end she whispered: "I don't like either of them. I don't think Trump's got American values or Christian values," she said as she gestured her thumbs down.

As our plane glided over the Hoover Dam, we all took a moment to stop and look in awe.

For many people this election has been a vulgar representation of this country. For many, both candidates are a bad choice.

And so, whatever the outcome next week, millions of Americans will be left with a choice they didn't want.

As the plane continued it's journey over the sweeping vistas of the Grand Canyon as it neared its final destination, I was left with the impression that even at 30,000 feet, it can be difficult to find agreement across the aisle.

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