Big Ten Panel Debates 2020 Election

Big Ten Panel Debates 2020 Election

NU VotesElection scholars from across the nation discussed student voter registration, polling in key states, and potential outcomes of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election during a special event open to all Big Ten students and guests.

You can watch the event here.

The webinar, co-sponsored by NU Votes and moderated by School of Education and Social Policy professor Dan Lewis, drew more than 70 participants from Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, the University of Iowa, Penn State University, the University of Michigan and Tufts University.

Featured speakers included Michael Traugott, research professor at the Center for Political Studies and professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan; Dave Brinker, senior researcher at the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University; and Diana Mutz, director of the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics and Samuel A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Traugott presented on shifts in partisanship in the last 25 years as well as the current status of the 2020 Presidential race. The shadow of the COVID-19 epidemic, which hangs over the entire campaign, “has increased the willingness or the propensity of people to vote by mail or by absentee ballot,” Traugott said, as reported in the Daily Northwestern. 

Brinker shared data from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement on college student registration and voting rates, as well as factors influencing student voting. Increasing polarization, strong sentiments about President Donald Trump and student activism are positively affecting student voting rates, he said. At the same time, practical issues such as proximity of polling locations and availability of early voting options could deter students from casting their ballots, he added.

Mutz unveiled brand-new data from a panel study charting if and why voters in 2016 are changing their party preferences in 2020. “It appears that Biden is winning over more previous Trump voters than Trump is winning Clinton voters,” she said, according to the Daily Northwestern.

NU Votes, a non-partisan initiative of Northwestern University’s Center for Civic Engagement, was on hand to answer final voting questions and help provide accessible and understandable information about registration and voting procedures. Northwestern's comprehensive 50-state voter hub works with partners across the University to promote informed voter engagement.

“We wanted to bring students together to make sense of the electoral terrain and hear a variety of scholarly perspectives,” said Lewis, the former longtime director of Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement, which encourages students to pursue voluntary service and research opportunities to help build communities.

By Ruth Curry
Last Modified: 11/1/20