Political elections discussed
The Lehigh Valley League of Women Voters hosted a presentation on election trends by Dr. Christopher Borick, Muhlenberg College professor of political science and director of Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. The event was held Jan. 8 at Superior Restaurant, Emmaus.
The bipartisan audience of approximately 35 attendees included Connor Corpora, regional manager for Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., and Scott Uehlinger, Republican candidate for U.S. Congress.
Borick, a public opinion researcher, opened by comparing election cycles to weather cycles. He explained that the cyclical nature of politics colors the election landscape as much as the personalities and qualifications of the candidates. By the 2018 midterm elections, the country will have entered a new political cycle.
According to Borick, U.S. voters seldom elect a member of the same party for three presidential terms. Therefore, the 2016 election cycle favored the Republican Party. He also stated he had believed the presidential race would be close but that the Democrat would win. The polls correctly predicted the popular but not the electoral outcome.
Political analysts view midterm elections as referendums on the president, and voter trend is, in Borick’s words, “to pull back” from the president. However, he warned that although general conditions predictably favor one party over another, small variations may result in big differences in election outcomes.
Borick briefly discussed how pollsters construct predictions. He mentioned generic ballots that serve to determine voter party preferences without referencing specific candidates and touched on the importance of wording in acquiring valid responses. In addition, the president, by supporting or failing to support a candidate, influences the voters. Such backing can be very valuable in helping a candidate win in the primary — but it may have a negative effect if the candidate is perceived as a presidential proxy in the general election.
Gerrymandering is another significant element pollsters must factor into their calculations.
“Gerrymandering is corrosive to American society because it erases competition,” Borick said.
He pointed out gerrymandering constitutes a serious issue for Pennsylvania but that judicial and legislative means exist to correct the situation.
Borick closed with a brief question-and-answer session. When asked how he interprets the ground swell of women entering politics, Borick responded, “It’s real, it’s powerful — there’s an energy.”
Borick said he views the surge of women becoming politically aware and involved as an important element in the upcoming elections.
Borick depicted an exciting 2018 election scene. As he was quoted by Lehigh Valley League of Women Voters President Janet Little in her introduction, “2018 will be a key year in American and Pennsylvania politics. After the dramatic victory of Donald Trump in 2016, Americans will have the chance to weigh in on the direction of the nation in major races, particularly in the Keystone State.”