In light of the decisive midterm elections on the horizon, Colorado College has taken steps to ensure that the student body is educated to the fullest extent. On Oct. 29, CC invited three professors from various universities to share their research and to discuss the upcoming election.
The three speakers that presented in Edith Gaylord Hall included Dr. Anand Sokhey, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Dr. Deborah Schildkraut, a professor at Tufts University, and Dr. Joanne Miller, an associate professor at the University of Delaware. The talks covered social media’s role in political mobilization, the young vote, and the impact of conspiracy theories.
The symposium began with Dr. Sokhey sharing his research on Colorado’s 2018 Political Climate Survey. His findings showed that Colorado’s expected voting trends were very representative of the expected national trends. He also found that there is a partisan division on almost every topic, particularly on Amendment 74 on the Colorado ballot. Amendment 74 would require compensation to landowners whose private property has lost market value due to state laws or regulations. While the voter trends predict a passing of this amendment, many lawmakers oppose this amendment.
Dr. Sokhey’s final and main point was the role that social media plays in civic engagement. It has been shown to heavily affect mobilization as well as decision-making. Voting is no longer something that simply happens only at the polls; it has seeped into our everyday lives through the internet.
The next professor to speak was Dr. Schildkraut, who shared her research on the diversity within the traditionally liberal millennial and Gen Z votes. One of the main issues she raised over this demographic was how older millennials are lumped together with the younger group in the analysis of voting patterns. She also found that there was rarely a distinction between white and nonwhite individuals within the millennial and Gen Z age groups. Dr. Schildkraut said, “We are a product of our environment,” and “People talk about voters as if they are in a vacuum.” According to her, race and gender matter more than age.
The last professor to present research was Dr. Miller. Her research focused on conspiracy theories, the people who believed in them, and why it matters. With the use of social media ever on the rise, she found that this has allowed for much more knowledge of, and therefore believers of, conspiracy theories. While there are indicators for certain individuals to be predisposed to believe in these conspiracies, she found that gender and political affiliations were not indicative. On both sides of party lines, the loser will view the winning side as the perpetrator of whatever conspiracy is being pushed.
The consequences of this mentality, Miller warned, is the use of this misinformation in public policymaking. “Donald Trump is the first president to weaponize conspiracy theories in a way that no president has before,” Miller said. “He governs as if he’s losing.” By staying informed and aware of possible “fake news,” Miller explained that we as voters have the power in our hands.
Colorado College does not endorse any political party or candidate but aims to emphasize the importance of critical thinking and civic engagement. With various issues in the mix, it is important to exercise one’s civic duties and to head to the polls on Nov. 6.