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Reflections on the 2020 United States election

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: November 12, 2020 12:00 p.m.

On November 3, Americans voted for their next president.
On November 3, Americans voted for their next president. Photo: iStock

Americans hit the polling stations on November 3 to vote for the next president of the United States. As the U.S., and the world, waited in anticipation for the votes to be tallied, current President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden both remained confident. On November 7, Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were named the next President and Vice-President of the United States.

We asked University of Regina faculty members for their thoughts on the U.S. election.

Dr. Cheryl Camillo is an assistant professor at the University of Regina’s Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. During her time following the U.S. election over the past two years, Camillo observed a strong need for campaign reform.

The 2020 U.S. election was like a sordid soap opera that the networks would not take off of the air resulting in the viewers (voters) becoming more and more unhealthy as they sat in front of their screens feeding on junk food. What struck me most as I followed the 2+-year-long campaign from Saskatchewan where both federal and provincial elections have been completed over the last 13 months is the need for campaign reform. The time and energy that the primary and general election candidates, most of whom were sitting legislators or public executives, and the voters devoted to the campaign could have been spent on governing the country and its states and cities and, in the voters' case, holding governments accountable. Like Canadians, Americans are capable of vetting candidates and their platforms in fewer than 12-24 months. A non-partisan federal election agency should be established to work with the states and the political parties to shorten the election season and educate the voters on voting and vote counting processes, steps that should help reduce cynicism and rebuild public trust.

Dr. Gordon Pennycook is an assistant professor of behavioural science in the University of Regina's Hill and Levene Schools of Business. Pennycook recently ran a study that found many people who voted for Donald Trump would be unlikely to accept the election results unless Trump was re-elected for a second term.

The U.S. is, predictably, facing an extremely unique situation: An incumbent who is not willing to concede the election. I think that it will be a steep uphill battle to convince Trump voters that he lost the election if the continues to maintain that he won. In fact, I ran a study last Friday and found that Trump voters had a strong belief that Trump won (despite it already being unlikely at that point) and many indicated being unlikely to accept the results of the election unless Trump concedes. I explained these results in more detail on Twitter, which can be found here.

Dr. Arjun Tremblay is an assistant professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies. He sees low voter turnout as an ongoing problem in U.S. elections, with one-third of Americans choosing not to cast their vote this year.

There are three important takeaways from the 2020 presidential election. First, the overall problem of voter turnout persists despite a record number of ballots being cast; roughly one third of Americans eligible to vote this year did not cast a ballot. Second, the urban-rural electoral divide is still a very relevant determinant of voting preference; by contrast to the 2016 presidential elections, however, there seems to be greater voter turnout in the suburbs and in major metropolitan areas in 2020, which may wind up being the deciding factor in the election. Third, polling continues to be a better indicator of a candidate’s popularity than it is a predictor of an election’s actual outcome.

Dale Eisler is a Senior Policy Fellow at the University of Regina’s Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and former Consul General for Canada to the U.S. The opposing opinions, priorities, and values of U.S. voters stood out to him throughout the election.

Two things stand out in this election. First, the utter polarization of the U.S. population on what appear to be irreconcilable differences and the challenges they present to Biden. Second, the failure of media and public opinion research to understand or fully reflect the reality of the campaign, and the mood of Americans.

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