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Friday, February 26, 2021

Professor Todd Donovan discusses presidential election results

Why exactly did President-elect Donald Trump win the election?

This is a question political science professor Todd Donovan is trying to answer.

As a part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Lecture Series, Donovan spoke in front of a full house of spectators in the Bellingham City Council Chambers Wednesday, Nov. 16.

During his lecture, Donovan assessed and explained exit polls he gathered, comparing who voters of different races, genders, social statuses and religious beliefs voted for this year in comparison to previous elections.

Donovan has been doing work on Trump by looking at papers and doing opinion polling in Iowa and nationally to compare him with other right-wing populist candidates, he said.

“I was going to compare Trump to populist candidates in Europe, thinking that if he lost it would be this interesting footnote of, ‘Let’s talk about why Trump had whatever appeal he had,’” Donovan said. “When he won, it was more important to talk about why he won then how he compared to Europe.”

Brent Mallinckrodt, recently-appointed dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, attended Donovan’s lecture.

“Taxpayers support us [at Western], so we like to give back to the community with talks that we think have a lot of interest across a broad range of our community,” Mallinckrodt said. “We like to give back, and I can’t think of a better topic this week than to have a professor of political science explain what happened in the recent election.”

“Trump setting records with Christian voters? Nobody saw that coming. We don’t know exactly what’s going on there.”

Political science professor Todd Donovan

Social status was discussed as one factor that has a lot of influence in voting decisions. People who are wealthier and college educated tend to vote more for Republicans, while people who are less affluent and not college educated typically vote for Democrats, Donovan said.

The exit polls for this year said otherwise.

“Something is changing in terms of class social status differences between the parties, that’s a real thing, whether it will last or not,” Donovan said. “And the education gap, that’s surprising. Republicans are losing votes from wealthy people and Democrats are losing votes from less affluent people.”

Religion was also discussed as a big factor when it comes to voting.

“Trump setting records with Christian voters? Nobody saw that coming,” Donovan said. “We don’t know exactly what’s going on there.”

Audience members listen to political science professor Todd Donovan as part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Lecture Series, in the Bellingham City Council Chambers Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. // Photo by Kelsie Noble
Audience members listen to political science professor Todd Donovan as part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Lecture Series, in the Bellingham City Council Chambers Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. // Photo by Kelsie Noble

Senior Hannah Anderson, a psychology major, attended the lecture.

“It wasn’t necessarily extremely surprising that the evangelicals were voting way more for Trump,” Anderson said. “But the amount at which they were, relative to people in the past, that was fascinating.”

Donovan also discussed the media coverage Trump got during the election cycle, with a focus on Trump’s use of Twitter.

The sensationalism of doing something that will give Trump a lot of attention is something he used a lot in his campaign, Anderson said.

“Already his rhetoric has softened a little bit, so that being said, I think to the core he’s someone that likes to gain that sort of attention,” Anderson said. “Knowing already the power that he has, given the media coverage that he has been given, I think that he’ll use it to his advantage for sure. I’m a little bit nervous [to see] how he goes about doing that.”

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