Editor’s note: Emily Thompson is executive news editor of The Tufts Daily. Thompson was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.
On November 2, the Tufts Political Science Department hosted a panel discussion on the upcoming midterm elections. The discussion, titled “What to Look for on Election Night: A Political Science Pre-Election Panel Discussion,” featured Tufts political science professors Deborah Schildkraut and Brian Schaffner, Boston College political science professor Masha Krupenkin and Tufts Cooperation and InnoVation in Citizenship club Co -President Magali Ortiz.
The panel was chaired by junior Emily Thompson, who began the evening by noting that this election was the first in which the response to COVID-19 was not a major part of the candidates’ platforms. Thompson asked about the impact of this societal shift on voter turnout.
Krupenkin responded by talking about the increased popularity of postal voting.
“Many people who were elected today … for the Republican Party … benefited greatly from a robust mail-in voting infrastructure,” Krupenkin said.
Thompson then asked about the political violence amid the recent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Schaffner talked about the divisions between Republicans and Democrats, and how those divisions are most visible in the differences on key issues that both parties stand for. Schaffner said Republicans are focusing on issues related to the economy, such as inflation, while Democrats are focusing on recent attacks on the democratic process.
Schildkraut added that it is difficult to gauge people’s views on political violence.
“We haven’t done studies on this in a long time,” Schildkraut said. “We started to question how much we cared about political violence when we were there [was] political violence. … If you ask people, “How important is this violence?” and you say 48% say yes — is that a lot? A little? Does it change? We don’t know because we’re only asking about it now.
Asked about the effects of inflation and the health of the economy on voter decision-making processes, Schildkraut explained the impact of the economy on the ruling party.
“At the presidential level, … if the economy is doing well, it’s supposed to benefit the incumbent or the incumbent’s party,” Schildkraut said. “If the economy is doing badly, the challenger will try to make the election about the economy.”
Thompson asked if political action in the week leading up to Nov. 8 could determine the outcome of the election. Schaffner suggested that the week leading up to the election may have minimal impact on the outcome, citing a national survey that found only a small percentage of voters were undecided.
Krupenkin offered a different perspective, citing the 2016 letter from James Comey to Congress that may have tipped the balance of the election from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump, suggesting that late-game actions can have a big impact.
Schildkraut added that he believes voter mobilization — actions such as knocking on doors, calling people and encouraging them to vote — can make a difference.
“Another late thing that I think could make a difference is mobilization,” Schildkraut said. “Encouraging voting… [for example] let me take you to the polls, … and that’s why it’s important to [focus on] not to drop the ball on things like that later in the game.
Thompson then asked if we should be able to trust the polls in this election.
Schaffner responded that pollsters had a hard time presenting accurate data on the American voting population because response rates were low. He also added that even given the uncertainty, the election outlook looks bleak for Democrats.
“Even if Democrats win the House general election, … they’re likely to lose about 14 seats in the House,” Schaffner said.
He later added that he believed President Biden could win again if he ran in 2024.
“If I had to give advice to the Democratic Party, I would probably say: run the sitting president [in 2024]Schaffner said. “Democrats have always lost seats [this] election … because most people are going to vote Democrat or Republican, and those in the middle … are just reacting to what’s happened in the last few years.