At a panel on Thursday night, Audrey Haynes, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, spoke about meeting a young woman at a restaurant who expressed her disillusionment about voting. The woman, like many people, felt no connection to the electoral process.
“It’s harder to motivate people who are not constantly interested and affected by it,” Haynes said. “If you don’t live it, breathe it, hear it, you may not know it, and you may not be interested in it because it’s not on your hierarchy of needs.”
The panel was hosted by UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs and discussed the recent midterm elections. Panelists included professors Charles Bullock, Jeffrey Glas, Haynes and Anthony Madonna.
An audience of more than 30 students came to the event to ask political questions, such as why people might not get engaged in politics.
“It’s kind of giving different perspectives on the elections that happened a couple of weeks ago,” said Doraly Blanton, a sophomore international affairs major. “And also what that means for the future of political fields in the United States.”
The first question the panelists were asked was about the Blue Wave.
“There was certainly movement within the Democratic Party,” Haynes said after a student asked a question about the predicted Blue Wave. “We certainly saw an increase among certain sectors. One of them would be young people.”
Compared to the last midterm in 2014, the percentage of participating voters aged 18-29 increased from 21 percent to 31 percent, according to day-after turnout estimates from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. Of that age demographic, over 60 percent voted Democrat.
“Voting is one of those things that are habit forming,” Bullock said. “Once you start voting, you’re likely to continue doing so.”
However, the scope of the Blue Wave was also not seen as spectacular.
“Overwhelming or underwhelming, I kind of viewed [the Blue Wave] as whelming,” Madonna said. “They hit exactly were most folks thought they were going to hit.”
The panelists spoke about what this meant for future elections.
“There was some erosion in the Republican party,” Haynes said. “And most of that erosion is coming from white women splitting their votes. Republicans lost some of those individuals. Married women in particular.”
The panelists were asked about the difficulties of running as a progressive in the Democratic Party.
“Bernie Sanders and progressive Democrats prove that they can mobilize Democrats,” Glas said. “But moderates are the ones winning these races in swing states. You don’t win swing states by alienating conservatives.”
Bullock discussed the beliefs some Democrats have about voter suppression.
“On the Democratic hand, the message is that they’re trying to keep you from voting. That’s a very mobilizing message,” Bullock said before comparing this scenario to parents who tell their children not to do something, only making their children do it more.
Bullock also compared it to the Republican Party’s beliefs.
“The Republicans have a different message, that people who shouldn’t be voting are voting and that we need these various protections,” Bullock said before discussing the data regarding how voting participation since 2008 has continued to increase despite mandatory voter ID laws in Georgia.
The panelists explored the role of the media and celebrity endorsements in the midterm elections.
“You have to have that right person delivering the right message to the right audience,” Glas said before talking about the impact of Taylor Swift’s endorsement of Democrats. “How many of these kids were actually paying attention in the first place? Maybe that was the thing that triggered them.”
Students asked questions about the turnout for the upcoming runoff election for Georgia’s secretary of state.
“In terms of turnout, it really depends on whether or not Stacey Abrams gets on the ballot,” Bullock said. “If she doesn’t, there’s going to be a huge drop off in participation … and that would benefit the Republicans.”
Runoff elections in Georgia have been historically won by Republicans, Bullock said.
Differing voting patterns between Republicans and Democrats were discussed by the panelists.
“Republicans are much more likely to view voting as a duty,” Glas said. “Democrats think voting is a choice ...They think that it’s something they can abstain from doing without consequence.”