Worried about Trump, foreign tourists come to Ohio to learn about the upcoming presidential election

Posted at 7:35 AM, Nov 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-07 21:23:19-05

Sian Owen was so curious, and concerned, about the presidential election in the United States that she traveled from her home in Australia for a political tour of Ohio last week.

“America is quite a conservative country,” said Sian Owen, an industrial relations specialist from Victoria. “How can they contemplate somebody like (Donald) Trump? And the way he behaves, and the language that he uses, and his treatment of women? He just sounds so uneducated. Just not somebody for president.”

She is one of 26 tourists from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who were part of a week-long tour that gives foreigners a behind-the-scenes look at the election.

It was by far the most popular tour that Political Tours founder Nicholas Wood has ever had. He regularly takes tourists to exotic locations such as Cuba, Russia and North Korea. 

Yet this year, more tourists wanted to see Ohio. He filled two Ohio tours, and then added a third tour to the swing state of Florida.

“People came here to understand why Trump has been so successful," said Wood, a former New York Times Balkans correspondent who founded the London-based tour company in 2011. "And now they’ve seen sane and sensible people ready to vote for him for reasons that seem to defy political logic.” 


Sian Owen, a political tourist from Victoria, Australia, tours a Hillary Clinton campaign office in Dayton.

The tourists -- mostly middle-aged or retired professionals with a keen interest in politics -- were genuinely confused by Trump’s win of the Republican nomination, and his possible win of the White House.

“If the rest of the world voted, Trump would get perhaps 10 to 20 percent of the vote,” said Gareth Andrews, a former football player and retired sports business owner in Australia who now leads a foundation there. 

Andrews and others talked to a WCPO reporter on Saturday as they toured a campaign office for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in downtown Dayton. That day they also met with University of Dayton political science professors, toured the Montgomery County Board of Elections to watch early voting, and stopped by a Trump campaign office in Kettering.

Throughout the week, the group met with Ashland County farmers, auto workers in Youngstown, civil rights leaders in Cleveland, and party leaders in Columbus, as well as professors, reporters and political experts. 

When asked about the most surprising part of their trip, the answer was simple: Trump's popularity.

“That Trump’s here.”

“That he’s standing at all.”

The answers came in a chorus of British and Australian accents.

Visitors from around the world came to Ohio for a tour of the swing state the weekend before Election Day. David Sorcher | WCPO contributor

Throughout their Ohio travels, the group met many Trump supporters, but they still couldn’t quite grasp why he was so popular.

“We understood the words but we didn’t understand the thought process (of Trump's supporters),” Sian Owen said.

They also questioned why Clinton was so unpopular, and wondered if it was because she was a woman.

“Do you think she (Clinton) can win in Ohio, because she seems to be struggling more in Ohio than in the country as a whole," asked Will Green of Hastings, Great Britain, to Mark Owen, chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party on Saturday.

“I think she can win in Ohio,” Mark Owen said. “She was in Cleveland last night, she’s coming to Cleveland tomorrow. They’re not going to go waste their time in place they think they can’t win.”

Virginia Hioo, of Melbourne, was deeply concerned about trade.

“We have ten military bases on our soil and our biggest trading partner is China, so we’re the meat in a sandwich. A very unpleasant sandwich,” Hioo said.

Visitors from around the world came to Ohio for a tour of the swing state the weekend before Election Day. David Sorcher | WCPO contributor

Others worried aloud about the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization under a Trump presidency, his ties with Russia, the future of trade agreements and the value of their own countries’ currencies.

Before the group left the Dayton campaign office, many helped themselves to Clinton campaign signs and buttons.

“We’ve so got to get her elected. We’ve got to have a woman for president,” said Sian Owen, as she pinned a Clinton pin on her shirt.

The group left Ohio on Sunday and flew to Washington D.C., where they will attend rallies and watch the election results on Nov. 8.