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Dr. Adam Silver of the Political Science Department discussed the 2016 Presidential Election, which came as a shock to many.
Silver commented on how the results of the election differed from the outcome the polls anticipated.
“Recent polls had it close, but backwards,” he said. Although Trump received fewer votes overall than Romney in 2012, he still proved victorious due in part to his ability to mobilize voters who had not previously turned out to the same degree, and to Clinton’s underperforming with voters who had propelled Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012 — African-American, Latino, and younger voters.
Further, according to Pew Research Center and Five Thirty-Eight, white voters preferred Trump over Clinton to about the same degree as they did Romney to Obama. The big differences occur when breaking down white voters by education level.
Trump trounced Clinton with white voters without a college degree; with women in this category, she lost by 18 percent points. He won by four percent points with white voters with a college degree or more, but received only six percent fewer votes than Clinton with white women without college degrees.
Silver also explained how polling services will add weight to an underrepresented population if the sample does not accurately reflect the population parameters. White males without college degrees may have been underrepresented in the polls due to the group’s historically low voter turnout rate.
Silver relayed an anecdote from a professor who teaches at a college in Pennsylvania in the heart of Trump country, who knew a man who voted for Trump on Election Day despite not having voted in the last 29 years.
“It’s not cut and dry, there are multiple factors here,” Silver said. The candidates’ appeal to different voters, their message or lack of message, campaign strategies and tactics, media coverage, the effect of third party candidates, which is still to be determined at this time, and FBI Director James Comey’s letter, which came out just prior to the election, may also have had their own roles in determining the results of the election..
Silver believes it is “difficult to say” how Trump’s being in office will impact the country, as some view him as a third party candidate who took over the Republican Party. Due to Trump’s belief that climate change is a hoax, he may eliminate environmental regulations to promote business.
Silver said Trump’s naming of Myron Ebell, a climate change denier, to lead his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team certainly does not bode well for those who believe that climate change is real, and that steps must be taken to advert it as best as possible.
That said, Silver believes some of Trump’s potential plans may be more difficult to enact than he realizes, such as a trade war with China, or abolishing the North American Process Technology Alliance (NAPTA).
Silver also discussed the individuals Trump has selected to fill the White House. Silver pointed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who supported conversion therapy and legislation that refused service to LGBTQ people, and the naming of Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart News, as chief strategists.
“You can’t separate the policy side from the way he [Trump] conducted his campaign,” said Silver.
“It’s important to recognize that he waged his campaign using racial division, using anti-Semitic images and statements, Islamophobia, and sexist if not misogynistic comments,” Silver continued.
He cautioned against “painting his [Trump’s] supporters with the same brush.” Silver recognized that many people voted for Trump for reasons other than his social standings, but that it is important to figure out why these individuals were able to look past them.
“We’re doing a real disservice if we try to normalize what happened,” said Silver. “That’s not appropriate. Yes we have to move forward as a Nation and try to work together, but in doing that, we have to recognize what happened and address it.”
Silver explained how the 2016 Election “exposed a lot of nasty and ugly undercurrents of our society.” He said Trump is a mirror to these flaws, but “we made him possible.” Silver argued that we cannot simply view Trump as an anomaly, but must “hold ourselves accountable.”
Silver believes Americans should not villainize those who voted for the opposing candidate, but should instead work to understand one another. He suggests to those who are unhappy with the election results to get involved to work against normalizing its proceedings.
“Sometimes we get intimidated by thinking we have to shoot for the stars,” Silver said. Individuals can instigate change on a more local level with services such as promoting LGBTQ rights on campus or playing a part in the student government.
He also suggests getting involved in municipal, state, or national politics by getting behind a cause or causes about which one is passionate. He believes one can also work on a broader level with supporting positive legislation or voting rights. He gave the example of the Mass Women Political Caucus, which works to put women in office.
“Whatever your cause is, try to make your world a better place,” said Silver. He believes that simply knowing what is going on around you can help you to make informed actions for change.
Dr. Silver is pleased to speak with anyone wishing to discuss these issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also suggests reading How it Happened by Elizabeth Drew from The New York Review of Books for further analysis on the election results.
Haley Biermann ’19 is a Staff Writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at email@example.com.