Academic speakers series begins with election analysis

John G. Geer, the first speaker in the 2016 UTM Academic Speakers Series, spoke to a crowd of students, faculty and community members in the Humanities Auditorium Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Geer, the Vice Provost for Academic and Strategic Affairs at Vanderbilt University, delivered a lecture entitled “Making Some Sense of the 2016 Presidential Election.” His lecture analyzed several of the underlying factors that he says have led to this year’s especially tumultuous election cycle.

Geer identified five key factors at the heart of the controversial campaign season: the economy, the exit of current United States President Barack Obama from office following his second term, anger, changes in information sources and demographic shifts.

In particular, Geer said that one of the defining narratives of the 2016 election so far has been a desire for change–a factor which he says could benefit Republican nominee Donald Trump on Election Day.

In addition, Geer analyzed the role of shifting demographics of the electorate. He said that with the pool of voters becoming more diverse, the importance of reaching out to multiple voter demographics is more significant in this election.

In his speech, Geer acknowledged the significance of the Electoral College and the effect of its structure on the political landscape. Geer referenced the so-called “Big Sort,” the tendency of citizens to physically relocate into communities and regions that share their personal political outlook, as a key factor in removing the factor of electoral competition in many states and regions. He illustrated his point by showing a map of the results of the 1976 election, in which Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter defeated Republican incumbent Gerald Ford, followed by a map of the results 2012 election, in which Obama was victorious against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The two maps showed a significant disparity in the amount of “competitive” districts, with the 1976 map having fewer districts that reported as solidly Republican or Democratic.

The next speech in the Academic Speakers Series will be delivered by Steven Snowden on Friday, Nov. 18 in the Blankenship Theater in the Fine Arts Building.

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