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Panel discusses political factors of presidential election

Jason Roberts, right, speaks to the attendees about the connections between the polls and election results as the rest of the panel looks on.
Jason Roberts, right, speaks to the attendees about the connections between the polls and election results as the rest of the panel looks on.

On Thursday afternoon, professors from the political science, public policy and sociology departments participated in a panel to discuss issues relating to the presidential election on Nov. 8.

What happened?

About 50 people attended the discussion. The five professors on the panel each spoke on different election topics of their choosing, with time for questions provided at the end.

Who spoke?

Tim Ryan, a professor of political science, discussed electoral behavior, moral psychology and attitudes. He said that while this year’s polls failed to perfectly predict the results, they weren’t very far off from previous years.

“Compared to what we’ve seen, this miss is not more extravagant than what we have quite a bit of precedent for,” Ryan said.

He said he didn’t expect how much undecided and “shy Trump voters” would affect the results.

“I was skeptical of these ideas for a couple of reasons,” Ryan said. “Number one, I was skeptical of the psychology of it, I thought that people tended to be proud of who they support, and I wasn’t ready to believe that people would want to hide it so much.”

Rebecca Kreitzer, an assistant professor of public policy, talked about gender and representation.

She said many people were surprised that more than 50 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.

“To me, I thought, that’s not surprising at all,” Kreitzer said.

She said that historically, most people — including white women — don’t tend to deviate from party lines.

“We forgot how powerful partisanship itself is,” Kreitzer said.

She said the increased diversity of Congress is important to consider in contrast to Trump’s victory.

“While this election may have resulted in a very polarizing presidential candidate, it resulted in the 115th congress being among the most racially, and religiously, and LGBT-diverse Congress that we’ve had in years,” Kreitzer said. “On the other hand, descriptive representation has actually increased, and it will be interesting to see the implications of that.”

Mosi Ifatunji, a professor of sociology, focused on race and white supremacy. He said on top of recent policy changes, white supremacy was Trump’s last step to success.

“A majority of the American people voted for Hillary, but we have Trump,” Ifatunji said. “Why? Well, because of the redistricting, the voting rights act, the closing of the polls, and then, the last little link was stoking the imagination of white supremacists to come out for once. They had not been coming out.”

Andrew Perrin, a professor of sociology, talked about how political and electoral institutions relate to political culture. He also expressed his own personal distress about the election results.

“I, personally, am very worried and very angry at the way that the election has emboldened the, frankly, bigoted and far-right wing,” Perrin said.

Jason Roberts, a professor of political science, discussed how new numbers will play out in Congress. He said Republicans will experience far fewer barriers.

“The good news for the Republicans at this point is that they’re now going to be able to govern,” Roberts said. “The bad news for the Republicans at this point is they’re now able to govern.”

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Why was this meeting important?

Evelyne Huber, chairperson of the department of political science, said she felt it was important to hold the event because it would help students sort through their emotions.

“The elections were a surprise for many people, and many people are still working through their emotions, and understanding intellectually what has happened,” Huber said.

She said she felt collaboration was important for full understanding.

“This is a great University with a great number of departments, and we should talk to each other even more than we do,” Huber said.