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Professor panel investigates impact of demographic groups on presidential election

| Friday, October 30, 2015

A panel of four faculty experts gathered in the Geddes Hall coffee house Thursday evening to discuss different demographic groups and their implications on the 2016 election in an event titled “Identity Politics? Thinking about Groups in the 2016.”

The event was hosted by ND Votes ’16, a non-partisan coalition dedicated to promoting voter participation in next year’s elections.

Political science department chair David Campbell began the discussion by highlighting the significance of the youth demographic in American politics. He centered his speech on challenging “myths about young people and their role in American politics.”

Campbell said many people generalize that the “youth are apathetic liberals” – a claim he said retains some degree of truth. Nonetheless, Campbell said there are certain misconceptions about youth voters.

Addressing the students in the room, Campbell said, “On most issues your generation does lean farther to the left than your parents and your grandparents.”  

However, Campbell said one exception to this is the issue of abortion.  

“Young people today look a lot more like their grandparents than their parents in terms of their stance on abortion,” he said.

Campbell concluded with another exception to the rule: the issue of gun control. Campbell said young people “aren’t terribly liberal” on gun control.

Professor of political science Darren Davis began his speech with the number 12.3 projected on the screen. He said the significance of that number is that African Americans comprise 12.3 percent of the American population, a seemingly small figure in comparison to the total population.

However, Davis said African Americans can still affect the outcome of the election.

“We don’t elect our president nationally, we have something that’s called the electoral college,” he said.

Davis said in states with large black populations, African-Americans can impact the state election.

“African-Americans can potentially influence 32.9 percent of the 270 votes that are needed to win in 2016,” Davis said. “ … This is how race becomes important in national politics.”

Associate professor of political science Ricardo Ramirez devoted his talk to the Latino demographic. He said there are a substantial amount of Latinos eligible to vote who are not registered.  

“The reality with Latinos is that they have potential to impact elections if they were to be mobilized,” Ramirez said.

He said the reason for the lack of mobilization of and outreach to Latinos who are eligible to vote is a combination “of where they live and the fact that they’re young.”

Most Latinos live in non-swing states, he said, which parties and candidates typically ignore. Ramirez also said many Latinos are young, and young people tend to be on average less politically involved.  

Ramirez said he thinks Latino voting turnout will increase for the 2016 election, largely owing to the fact that they “feel under attack” from Donald Trump’s campaign.

“If Latinos associate a certain party with not wanting them who do you think they are going to vote for?” he said.

The final speaker, associate professor of political science Christina Wolbrecht, focused on the implications of women’s voting habits on elections and said there is a larger gender gap in the younger generations.  

However, Wolbrecht said the gender gap seems to exist only amongst whites.

“There isn’t much of a gender gap at all with nonwhites,” Wolbrecht said.   

Wolbrecht said while many would expect issues directly related to women to cause a large gender gap, in reality this is not the case.

“The truth is that men and women actually don’t vary a great deal in their preference on the kind of issues we usually consider women-specific, such as abortion, equal pay and requiring religious institutions to provide birth control,” Wolbrecht said. “Where we see bigger differences between men and women is support for the social welfare state.”

ND Votes ’16 is sponsored by the Rooney Center and Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns.  On Nov. 12, ND Votes ’16 will hold a student forum as a part of their continued initiative.  

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About Eddie Damstra

Eddie is a junior from Orland Park, Illinois. He is majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Constitutional Studies and plans on pursuing law school after his time as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame.

Contact Eddie