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Election Aftermath Analyzed


Election Experts at UC Riverside

Politics, Polls and Communication in the Aftermath of the 2004 Elections

(November 3, 2004)

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — University of California, Riverside faculty bring expertise in specialized areas of today’s political picture to election aftermath stories on communications and public opinion, the role of big government in addressing the needs of the war on terror, and many other topics.

POLITICS AND THE MEDIA
Martin Johnson, assistant professor of political science
Johnson studies how assumptions of bias in the news media impact the outcome of elections. Johnson received his bachelor's degree in journalism before earning advanced degrees in political science. He has been quoted extensively in the media. In a story about Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 in the Christian Science Monitor, he said, “Who's going to go? People who want to see Moore take on Bush and the war on terror, and people who want to go so they can walk out! If anything, it will heighten the divisions and promote activism among the already-decideds.”


PUBLIC OPINION POLLS
Charles Whitney, professor and associate chair in creative writing and professor of sociology
“Are exit polls out of business?
There's the old story of the compulsive gambler who plays roulette at a casino that's known to be crooked. A friend asks, 'why do you play on a rigged roulette wheel?' His reply: 'Because it's the only wheel in town.' Exit polls will persist because they are the only wheel in town, and because they have uses other than just projections. With the same sorts of statistical controls pollsters use with other samples that are less than perfectly representative, they can help, in the days after elections, to help explain why voters voted as they did, what the 'mandate' really means. What we can expect, as we have with every other case in which opinion researchers have been wrong, is that every effort will be made to improve the system next time around.
Whitney can discuss opinion polls, public opinion about the news media and the impact the media on voters. Whitney is editor of a three-volume Encyclopedia of Journalism, scheduled for publication in 2006.


ROLE OF BIG GOVERNMENT
Max Neiman, professor of political science
The era of big government is, apparently, not over. In fact, big government will be asked to address many of the changes recommended by the 9-11 Commission, such as retooling Intelligence, tightening America’s borders, and developing a global diplomatic and public relations strategy to contest radical Islamist ideology. Neiman’s 2000 book, Defending Government: Why Big Government Works, documents the public's declining confidence in the system, and lays out the dangers of too much cynicism in the political process. “The disdain about government is, I think, based on misconceptions about its role in a democratic society,” he said, arguing that only an active and informed public can keep government from becoming an oppressive, unresponsive bureaucracy.

THIRD PARTIES AND VOTER BEHAVIOR
Shaun Bowler, professor of political science
"John Kerry was unable to offset the edge in the Electoral College enjoyed by the President as a consequence of re-apportionment and the over-representation of some states relative to others, especially relative to California.” Bowler studies voter behavior and the effect of third party candidates on elections, including how voters sometimes make a “strategic” vote for a third-party candidate in the primary even if they will vote for a major party candidate in the general election. The co-author of Demanding Choices: Opinions and Voting in Direct Democracy, Bowler has studied elections all over the world.

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