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Professors analyze election process

Hannah Eckstein | Monday, November 5, 2012

With Election Day on Tuesday, it’s nearly impossible to leave the house without being exposed to some kind of campaign advertisement.

The Rooney Center for American Democracy hosted a panel discussion on Friday in Carole Sandner Hall and invited political science professors Darren Davis, David Campbell and Geoffrey Layman to speak about the upcoming election. The discussion aimed to clarify any questions regarding the election process and prepare students and faculty alike to make informed decisions at the ballots.

Layman gave the audience a brief background of how the electoral system works.

“The elections are not simply national elections, but rather are 50 statewide elections in combination with one election in Washington D.C. for the electoral vote,” Layman said.

He noted the significance of this structure, reminding the audience of the 2000 presidential election, when Democratic candidate Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the election by losing the electoral vote.

Layman said while race for the popular vote seems to be evenly matched, President Barack Obama is projected to have the lead in electoral votes. Such a close race means that a repeat of the 2000 election could occur, he said.

Davis questioned the accuracy of the data collected in public opinion polls. He highlighted this by bringing up the prevalence of bias in polls, specifically gender bias.

Forty-four percent of women claim they will vote for Gov. Mitt Romney, he said, while 50 percent say they are in favor of Obama. But Davis said the gender gap in this election was actually greater than the projections revealed.

“The stark difference in gender views between the two candidates, could play a large role in the way in which women will vote,” Davis said.

He said he believes many women who publically say they are going to vote for Romney will eventually check off Obama’s name on the ballot.

Campbell then discussed religions’ role in the election, describing Romney’s Mormon faith as a “stained glass ceiling” hindering his campaign efforts. Campbell noted his religion has not been a matter of discussion in recent months.

The relative lack of religious discussion stems from the fact that both candidates’ campaigns have in some way been marred by their religious affiliations, he said, and both candidates wish to avoid “mutually-assured destruction.”

Drawing parallels to when President John F. Kennedy was elected as the first Catholic president, Campbell questioned what role religion plays in elections and how religious tolerance is affected by the presidency.

“If Romney was to win, would this mean more religious tolerance for Mormonism across America?” Campbell said.

Davis, Campbell and Layman agreed the biggest factor in the election would be mobilizing voters to get to the polls.