Poli Sci experts to discuss election

U panel will offer research-based perspective on the upcoming election.

Poli Sci experts to discuss election

Bryna Godar

Five University of Minnesota political science professors will discuss various aspects of the 2012 election Tuesday night.

The panel aims to present attendees with a research-based perspective — an understanding of the election that goes beyond who’s ahead in the polls.

The topics will range from detailed micro-level brain analysis to American institutions to the broader international environment.

“It’s a nice opportunity to show people how it is that political scientists in their scientific capacity make sense of election processes,” said Raymond Duvall, the political science department chair, who selected the panelists. He said organizers aim to show audiences that they don’t have to depend simply on the pundits or talking heads on TV to be informed about the election.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 250 people had registered online to attend the panel.

“I think the value of the event is that attendees will think about many different facets of the election,” said Kathryn Pearson, who will focus largely on the Electoral College during the panel.

Pearson said the Electoral College shapes candidate strategy and voters’ experiences, with much more attention directed toward battleground states — which lack dominant support for one candidate.

She said voters in these states have much more opportunity to hear and meet the candidates, whereas the vast majority of voters are “virtually ignored” by the campaigns regarding presidential visits.

Pearson will also touch on the lack of competitiveness in most U.S. congressional elections.

“A lot of people, when it comes to representation in Congress, they are not presented with two viable choices on Election Day,” Pearson said.

Howard Lavine  will present on the question: “Is the American voter
competent?”

Though he said the aggregate probably is, many voters at the individual level are not.

“If we’re voting for candidates on bases other than the policy direction that we’d like to see the country move in, then we are not controlling the direction of public policy,” he said.

Tim Johnson, a Supreme Court expert, will focus on two issues: how the election will affect the Supreme Court and how the Supreme Court might affect the election.

“I just hope to get across that there are larger issues that people should be thinking about rather than just this horse race,” Johnson said, pointing out that justices are on the bench for sometimes 10 times longer than a president is in the White House.

Ben Ansell  will take a broad international perspective, focusing on the effects of the global economy on re-election chances.

Following the financial crisis, Ansell said Obama should be doing worse than he is in polls.

“What we would like students to get out of this is, in general, a much better understanding about what political scientists know of an election,” Ansell said.

“I want to leave everybody panicking a little bit at the end.”

John Sullivan  could not be reached for an interview but will present his research that uses MRIs to study political psychology.